Jesse William Korff, a 20-year-old man from Florida, pled guilty in 2014 to five counts of developing, producing, transferring, and possessing toxins. He also pled guilty to five counts of smuggling toxins and one count of conspiring to kill a person in a foreign country. After serving the prison sentence, Korff is subject to five years of supervised release and a fine of $1,000.
Homeland Security began investigating Korff’s toxin business in 2013 when all of Black Market Reloaded came under a federal microscope.
In 2013, Black Market Reloaded was the second-most successful Dark Net website. It came online just months after Silk Road first appeared and offered a smaller number but wider range of goods including, most notably, guns.
Korff sold ricin and abrin, two deadly toxins, to customers around the world from Aug. 2013 to Jan. 2014 under the name “Snowman840.” He was a teen when he began the business.
“On at least one occasion in December 2013, Korff agreed to produce, and ultimately provided, a quantity of abrin to a purchaser in London who intended to poison and kill an individual she claimed was her mother,” police said. “After the purchaser’s receipt and administration of the initial dose, which was ineffective, Korff agreed to provide a second quantity of the toxin in order to assist the purchaser in the implementation of the murder plot.”
Kuntal Patel was arrested in 2014 before being able to carry out a task that she said was revenge against her “relentlessly” abusive mother.
Korff unknowingly discussed his operation with undercover agents including how he hid his product and sent it through the mail using vials in a carved out and re-melted candle, the Department of Justice said. Korff also gave specific instruction about how much abrin was needed to kill people of various weights as well as how to serve the toxin to them.
“Korff also assured the agent that a victim’s poisoning symptoms would mimic a bad case of the flu, subsequently resulting in death,” federal authorities say. “Korff claimed that the toxin would not ordinarily be detected in an autopsy.”
The agent arranged a $2,500 purchase of abrin, enough for two doses.
For reasons unknown, Korff agreed to personally deliver the chemicals to a rest stop in Florida. He was arrested when he attempted to get the money left by the officer.
“Jesse Korff peddled his poison in a shadowy, online network favored by cybercriminals,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman of the District of New Jersey said in a press release. “He also offered guidance on its effective use, and his sentence today appropriately took account of his participation with an overseas customer in an attempted murder plot. Fortunately, law enforcement was able to intercede before Korff could conclude his deadly transaction.”
The arrest and the search of his home led to evidence and information being shared with law enforcement in Austria, Denmark, and England. In addition to Patel, the arrests of Ryan Chamberlain and Jonathan Norling seem to be closely related to the Korff case.
Correction: A previous version of this article used a superfluous surname in a sentence meant to reference Korff.
Illustration by Max Fleishman