How Athens County Prosecutors investigate the dark web

ATHENS, Ohio (WTAP) - We've been covering a case out of Athens County involving people in other parts of the country, distributing thousands of dollars in narcotics to Ohio University students using the dark web.

Karen Riggs is a media arts and studies professor at Ohio university researches and teaches about the dark web.

“Dark web is part of the deep web. If you have an email address, you sign on to something with a password, you're in the deep web. The dark web is a smaller part of the dark web. And this is where people go to sell and buy things that they can't sell and buy on the rest of the web and much of in person. And much of it is a very negative thing. Very dangerous.”

The Athens County Prosecuting Attorney, Keller Blackburn, and his team have been investigating the dark web for the last 14 months to see how people are using it to traffic drugs to Athens.

“It definitely takes training and my employees were able to learn from working with individuals who have gotten treatment and are no longer involved in it. It's kind of applying old school law enforcement techniques to new age technology.”

They had a breakthrough in the last few weeks, charging two people in Iowa with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

“Hopefully it's something we can help with other law enforcement agencies because I think sales of drugs over the internet are sadly where we're headed. This massive opioid crisis, if someone can buy 500 Percocets or 500 Oxycodone without any risk of dealing with someone face to face, the crisis is going to get worse before it gets better.”

Riggs adds, “When people can buy automatic assault weapons that the government won't even let you buy, think about what that does.”

Those involved have also been charged with money laundering for exchanging their money on the dark web using bitcoins.

“You can buy through bitcoin and have it transfer into actual money that you can spend in other ways using the internet but its also becoming riskier because the economy of the bitcoin is failing. So using virtual money is becoming riskier.” Says Blackburn.

Tyler Strand of Iowa is still at large for the crimes and Anthony Boeckholt is incarcerated in Iowa pending extradition to Athens.

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