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Feds bust online illegal drug market and its ‘Pirate’ proprietor

October 2, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

GWEN IFILL: Now to a very different kind of shutdown of a massive anonymous online marketplace for illegal drugs.

Ray Suarez has the story.

RAY SUAREZ: Federal authorities closed down a Web site known as Silk Road today and arrested its alleged mastermind, Ross Ulbricht of San Francisco, said to have called himself Dread Pirate Roberts.

Independent Television News investigated the world of online drug sales recently.

We begin with this account from correspondent Cordelia Lynch.

CORDELIA LYNCH: We decided to see just how easy it is to buy drugs on a site called Silk Road.

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Well, on here, I can see everything from heroin, crack, ecstasy pills. The heroin here goes from 225 U.S. dollars up to $5,000. You can even rate people. This is a system based on trust. Here, the seller says two grams of the best Afghan brown heroin. Satisfaction guaranteed, it promises.

We bought three-and-a-half grams of MDMA, a key ingredient in ecstasy, and one gram of opium. Well, the envelopes have arrived. It took just three days and now we’re going to find out what’s inside. We’re at a government-licensed laboratory, and they’re going to test the contents for us.

John Ramsey is a toxicologist who spent nearly three decades analyzing drugs for the police.

JOHN RAMSEY, toxicologist: So we have gotten an almost perfect match for crystal MDMA.

CORDELIA LYNCH: Next, he tested the opium we ordered.

JOHN RAMSEY: So we have got one small package which could be opium.

CORDELIA LYNCH: It, too, tested positive.

Are you surprised that these things are so readily available on the Internet?

JOHN RAMSEY: Well, yes, I am. We know there’s a ready market in legal highs, but these are illegal compounds, and I’m surprised that it’s relatively straightforward to buy them across — over the Internet.