A case in which three men who made more than £3.5m in cryptocurrency selling fake medication on the dark web has sparked a change in drug legislation.
Allen Valentine, 62, his son Roshan Valentine, 39, and Roshan's childhood friend Krunal Patel, 40, were producing and selling benzodiazepines, a Class C sedative drug.
The gang made at least £3.5m in illicit profit.
They also had several accounts on different dark web markets and advertised the sale of Xanax, Diazepam and Valium.
When the trio were arrested, the seizure of their products was the first in the UK of some of the chemicals, and as such legislation will be amended later this year to include these drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act as Class A substances
Detective Constable Alex Hawkins, of the Metropolitan Police’s cyber crime unit, led the investigation. He said: “The three men ran a sophisticated, large-scale production of fake pharmaceutical drugs sold on the dark web that appeared to be genuine.
"Their operation was solely for the greed of those involved bearing no concern for the vulnerabilities of those purchasing these drugs."
Hawkins said that some of the drugs contained completely different chemicals from those which should be in the genuine tablets and said some were "extremely dangerous".
“This is the first seizure of those chemicals in the UK and as such legislation will be amended later this year to include these drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act as Class A substances," he said. "Stopping the manufacturing of these drugs has removed a significant risk to the public."
Hawkins thanked pharmaceutical companies Viatris and Teva UK who worked with his team on their investigation, and supported the prosecution against the "dangerous and fraudulent men".
He added: “I’d urge anyone to seek medical advice and obtain a prescription for medication through a doctor. If you buy from the dark web there is no guarantee what is in the substances, as with this case.”
The cyber crime unit launched an investigation after they received intelligence from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the US that the men were selling fake pharmaceutical drugs on the dark web.
Detectives discovered that the three men were using a warehouse unit at Acton Business Park in west London as a base for producing, packaging and supplying the drugs.
They were operating under the guise of a company called Puzzle Logistics Limited that was established in 2016.
Each of the men visited the unit on a daily basis, often staying for much of the day.
Officers saw that Patel would frequently leave with large bags, returning 10 to 15 minutes later without them.
They found that users would buy the drugs on the dark web, paying in cryptocurrency, then receive them through the post.
Hawkins said the investigation team had detailed knowledge of the dark web, and training in cryptocurrency, allowing them to "efficiently progress the investigation".
Detectives utilised specialist cyber tactics to prove it was the Valentines and Patel who were making and selling the illegal substances.
They determined the three men converted £3.5million from cryptocurrency into fiat currency (sterling).
The accounts have since been frozen by police.
On 17 August 2022, Krunal Patel was arrested near the warehouse, with 15 parcels labelled for posting to addresses across the UK. Inside those parcels were tablets imprinted “Xanax” and “Teva”, both brand names for licensed medicines within the Benzodiazepine group. Roshan and Allen Valentine were arrested later that same day.
Officers searched the warehouse and found a concealed laboratory where a large amount of equipment and several containers of chemical substances were discovered, along with numerous crates of pills manufactured on site.
The pills were analysed and found to contain Class C drugs from the Benzodiazepine group including Deschloroetizolam, Flubromazepam, Bromazolam and Flualprazolam.
Allen Valentine told the jury he was a doctor and has qualifications in pharmacy.
Enquiries are currently ongoing to verify the claims.
All three men were charged with conspiracy to produce Class C drugs and money laundering offences on 19 August 2022 and were remanded in custody.
Patel and Roshan Valentine, both from Middlesex, pleaded guilty to various drugs offences at Isleworth Crown Court in February.
Allen Valentine, from Harrow, also in Middlesex, pleaded not guilty to the same offences as his son and friend, but was found guilty after trial by jury.
A sentencing date is yet to be set.
A confiscation hearing to legally obtain their illegal profits will also take place.
Detective Superintendent Helen Rance who heads up the cyber crime unit said: “Our specialist cyber crime unit are experts at infiltrating the sale of illegal items on the dark web.
"We work collaboratively with International Law Enforcement partners to ensure operations like this are stopped in their tracks."