A young man was jailed yesterday for operating a dark net drug importing scheme from his parents' North Shore home. He was one of many teenagers arrested by police in the past 18 months for using Bitcoin to buy illicit drugs from around the world. Sam Hurley reports.

A teenager at one of the country's most affluent schools was running a drug ring from the bedroom of his parents' home.

Customs intercepted packages containing illicit substances Elias Valentin Smith had imported from all over the world and paid for with bitcoin before police raided his unsuspecting parents' North Shore home.

"It is an absolutely chilling thought that you would put your parents through that," Judge Russell Collins told him as he jailed him for more than two years yesterday.

Smith's lawyer had argued Smith was naive but Judge Collins 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?"

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The case has sparked conern over how easily accessible illicit substances are to young people online.

It was in October 2015, Smith's last year at Albany Senior High School, which is decile 10, on Auckland's North Shore, that he first began his drug importing scheme.

On October 7 an item of mail from Canada was intercepted at the International Mail Centre at Auckland International Airport.

It contained 80 tabs of lysergic acid and was addressed to Smith's parents' home.

Customs officers such as Paul Ferguson, pictured with detector dog Zara, have noticed a sharp rise in dark net drug importations through the mail. Photo / Nick Reed
Customs officers such as Paul Ferguson, pictured with detector dog Zara, have noticed a sharp rise in dark net drug importations through the mail. Photo / Nick Reed

Customs noted the address and alerted police, who kept a watchful eye for any future suspicious packages destined for the North Shore house.

The following year, Smith asked his best friend Nicholas Michael Barker if he could use his family home as a destination for his dark net imports.

He offered his mate $200 per successfully delivered package.

It is unknown how many items of mail containing illegal drugs slipped through to Barker and Smith's homes, but on June 2, 2016 an item of mail from Germany containing amphetamine sulphate was stopped at the border.

It was destined for Barker's home.

Nicholas Barker was sentenced last year for his role in the scheme. Photo / Supplied
Nicholas Barker was sentenced last year for his role in the scheme. Photo / Supplied

In October, more mail arrived with Barker's address written on the front. This time it came from Poland and contained 760 tabs of lysergic acid and a sheet of blotter paper laced with fentanyl.

Police raided Barker's home in Greenhithe on November 10.

Inside the teenager's bedroom officers found lysergic acid and a drug known by its street name "DOM" (2,5-Dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine).

That same day police banged on Smith's front door - he wasn't home, but his parents were.

They were shocked when a detective produced a search warrant to search their house and immediately asked to be shown their son's bedroom.

The 2015 school yearbook photos of Elias Smith and Nick Barker. Photos / Supplied
The 2015 school yearbook photos of Elias Smith and Nick Barker. Photos / Supplied

What police found in Smith's room was a set of scales, items of mail originating in Portugal, a small amount of methamphetamine, liquid drugs and lysergic acid.

Also found were several documents showing Smith had invested in Bitcoin.

But most importantly for the police, they found his cellphone.

When its contents were downloaded text messages showed Smith talking with prospective buyers and giving his advice and experience about the plethora of drugs on the menu and at what price.

Smith's texts, seen by the Weekend Herald, also show a discount for bulk sales.

Some of the cash seized during the Customs and police operations. Photo / Supplied
Some of the cash seized during the Customs and police operations. Photo / Supplied

He also spoke of creating a "curved graph" to create a "decent pricing system" because "I really should have a solid pricing structure".

When arrested by police, Smith refused to make a statement.

However, at sentencing his lawyer Marie Dyhrberg QC argued Smith didn't have a criminal mind and his offending was not for commercial purposes.

She said he had a naïve outlook on what he'd got himself into.

"It's not your usual case, it has a lot of intertwining factors that get behind what caused this offending," Dyhrberg said, adding there was a causative link to Smith's offending, his mental health and a fascination with the drugs and its effects.

A sheet of LSD confiscated by Customs during its investigation into the dark net. Photo / Supplied
A sheet of LSD confiscated by Customs during its investigation into the dark net. Photo / Supplied

But Judge Collins said to Smith: "You well know that what you did is extremely serious."

Of the 14 charges Smith faced, 10 have been defined by parliament as drug dealing.

"In short Mr Smith, at your young age, you were dealing in class A drugs and you were a drug dealer," the judge said.

He sentenced him to two years and three months' in prison on 14 drugs charges charges in the Auckland District Court yesterday.

With no prior convictions, Smith, now 20, received a two year discount for his youth, one year for personal circumstances, one year for his rehabilitation efforts and a 25 per cent discount for his guilty plea.

Barker was sentenced to eight months' home detention and 100 hours' community work last year in the North Shore District Court.

"It is clear that your involvement was significantly more serious than his, in fact I regard it as an aggravating factor that you enlisted him in this criminal enterprise," Judge Collins told Smith.

Smith blew his friends and family, who packed the public gallery yesterday, a kiss as he left.

Smith's arrest was part of a major police and Customs operation, revealed by the Herald last year, after detectives discovered wealthy Kiwi teens buying illicit drugs off the dark web.

In court documents released to the Weekend Herald, police offered a frank explanation for this type of criminal activity.

"The rise in importations of this nature can be attributed to the advent of the underground global marketplace through what is known as the 'dark web'.

"A comprehensive range of controlled drugs are available, often at prices far cheaper than commonly found on the New Zealand domestic market."

Bitcoin, police specifically identified, was a common purchasing tool and was what Smith used.