This week, Elias Valentin Smith, a 20-year-old man from New Zealand, successfully appealed his prison sentence for drug dealing with bitcoin as a teenager. This was despite the fact that the court system considered the use of bitcoin as a sign of criminal sophistication.
Not Dark Enough Net
Last month, Elias Valentin Smith of North Shore, Auckland, was sentenced to two years and three months in jail for fourteen drug-related charges by the Auckland District Court. On Tuesday his lawyer convinced the High Court that jail time was too harsh a punishment for the young man and the sentence was shortened to just eleven months under house arrest, as the New Zealand Herald reports.
Although eventually withdrawing the prison sentence, the Auckland High Court was not open to the idea that the then teen was not old enough to understand the severity of his actions, in part because of the maturity the judges thought is needed to use bitcoin. One judge asked: “Would a young gang prospect on the East Coast of the North Island, who is looking at prison time for methamphetamine, accept that someone who was purposing drugs on the dark net and paying in bitcoin was not worldly wise and naïve?” Another judge added that “covert use of new technologies to break the law has its own level of sophistication”.
Despite the use of the dark net, the police got wind of Smith with fairly unsophisticated means. Investigators were alerted to the actions of the then high school senior by the New Zealand customs service that found several packages from abroad containing drugs addressed to the teen and his friend, which he got in the business, starting in October 2015.
Smith was arrested in November 2016 after the police raided the teen’s room at his parents house as part of what they called Operation Tiger. The police reportedly found in his room a set of scales and a small amount of drugs (including methamphetamine and lysergic acid – a precursor for LSD). His mobile phone was also seized and the police said it contained text message communications with prospective drug buyers, describing his products and offering a discount for bulk sales. The police also got its hands on several documents showing Smith had invested in bitcoin.
Should the judge have spared this young man from going to jail? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.
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