SACRAMENTO, CA - An alleged drug ring using a little known corner of the Internet to sell California marijuana to at least 16 other states was broken up by federal investigators in recent months.
Matthew Gillum, 29, of Loomis, and Jolene Chan, of Roseville are each facing charges of distribution of marijuana, unlawful use of the mail, conspiracy to distribute marijuana and avoiding currency reporting transaction requirements.
The investigation began last August when Sacramento postal inspectors detected a number of Express Mail packages sent into the Sacramento region containing large sums of U.S. currency. They were sent to area Post Office Boxes and addressed to fictitious businesses with names like Granite Cove Property Management and American Sound Concepts.
In December 2012, a "controlled delivery" from Granite Bay to New Jersey by postal inspectors led to a recipient who cooperated with authorities. He explained that he had bought the marijuana from the website Silk Road, using a fictitious name.
Silk Road requires a special browser to access and features a range of illegal drugs for sale. Buyers can contact sellers using encrypted email. Purchases on the site must be made using bitcoins, a digital currency that must be paid for in dollars to use.
The recipient of the marijuana in New Jersey told inspectors he had sent $12,000 to Gillum for 5 pounds of pot using encrypted emails.
On March 20, agents moved in on Gillum's alleged courier at the Rocklin Post Office on Pacific Avenue. The courier was interviewed and agreed to cooperate with investigators.
Later that day, agents served a search warrant at the courier's house, where they found Gillum leaving with a backpack containing over $7,000. He was released, but later in the day, a search warrant was served at Gillum's home in the 3300 block of Penryn Road in Loomis, where he was seen coming around his home in his underwear.
Agents noticed he was wet and determined he'd been trying to get rid of evidence in a creek beside his home.
Another search warrant was served the same day at the Roseville home of Jolene Chan, who investigators allege was the person who processed and packaged marijuana for Gillum.
Agents estimate the pair were able to handle up to 400 transactions using Silk Road.
Gillum allegedly ran a sophisticated operation, including making his accomplices take courses in counter-surveillance. Before he was arrested, Gillum managed to alert other accomplices he had been detained and his house was searched by law enforcement.
At the same time, Gillum was apparently careless enough to explain to a buyer on a Facebook post, quote, "Ya I know you live across the country bro, it's not like I could sell weed in Cali. Everyone grows it here. If I know what you want, I can have it dropped for you."