BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont man was sentenced to five years in federal prison Friday for a drug dealing and money laundering conviction that grew from the Justice Department's first undercover operation targeting dark web drug sales across the country.
In court Friday, attorneys said Sam Bent arranged hundreds of anonymous drug deals via the dark web, with sometimes 20 to 30 packages a day being mailed by his cousin from post offices across northeastern Vermont and northern New Hampshire.
"Bent's operation represents the new drug-dealing paradigm," prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum filed before the hearing. "His methods were secure, discrete and difficult to detect. His methods -- selling to customers hundreds and thousands of miles away -- insured he distanced himself from the societal costs of his operation."
Sam Bent's cousin, Djeneba Bent, was sentenced Friday to three years of probation.
The arrests of Sam Bent, 33, of St. Johnsbury and Djeneba Bent, 27, of Concord, in the spring of 2018, was part of a nationwide operation in which 35 people from across the country were charged with selling drugs via the dark web. Federal authorities also seized weapons, drugs and more than $23.6 million.
The operation began when federal agents in New York posed on the dark web as money launderers exchanging U.S. currency for dark net currency.
The Bents pleaded guilty in March to conspiring to distribute cocaine, LSD, MDMA, and marijuana in deals arranged via the dark web and paid for with Bitcoin. The drugs were them mailed from post offices in Vermont and northern New Hampshire. Sam Bent also pleaded guilty to three counts of money laundering.
The dark net is a part of the internet often used by criminals that is hosted within an encrypted network and accessible only through anonymity-providing tools.
In sentencing documents, prosecutors described Sam Bent as "a sophisticated dark web drug dealer," while his cousin Djeneba Bent served as the courier who mailed the drug shipments from post offices throughout northeastern Vermont and northern New Hampshire.
U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford said it was "an ingenious crime" and the five-year sentence he imposed balanced the seriousness of the crime with the need for deterrence for Sam Bent and others who might be tempted to commit similar crimes while giving him the opportunity to lead a productive life once he's released from prison.
Speaking to the judge Sam Bent said he made "a really bad decision" and took responsibility for his actions. "I deserve whatever punishment I get," he said.
Sam Bent was ordered to report to prison Oct. 1.
During a second sentencing hearing, both prosecutors and defense attorneys said Dejenba Bent only served as a courier who mailed the drug-laden packages at different post offices throughout northeastern Vermont and northern New Hampshire.
In court, Djeneba Bent, apologized for her actions and said she wanted to get back to her job and get married.