If you’re anything like me, you tend to believe that the drug dealers of the underground world are just the virtual avatars of the people you cross the street to avoid in the aboveground world.
At the very least, you don’t expect them to be the people who examine your genitals for a living.
Well, thanks to Dr. Olivia Bolles, you may have to rethink that assumption.
Last week the Drug Enforcement Agency arrested Bolles, a Delaware-based gynecologist. She’s charged with selling everything from Xanax to Adderall to Butane Hash Oil on Silk Road under the moniker “MDPro.” If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
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The 32-year-old Bolles appears to be a model doctor: a resident physician at Christiana Care Health System in Delaware. She received her MD at the University of Missouri and her BA at Truman State in Kirksville, Missouri, and she has published academic papers. (One of them from 2012 centered on the “port-site metastasis following robotic-assisted radical hysterectomy.”)
She has two active licenses in the state of Delaware—a license as a practicing physician and a license for ACGME training, which means she’s allowed to teach. Right now, she holds a “pending” license for controlled substances. The criminal complaint does not mention any previous offenses, and I could not find any previous arrests online. She was, for all intents and purposes, a highly functioning member of society.
But she was a bad drug dealer—who also happened to have a weird candy fetish.
“Dr. Bolles was a respectable doctor by day and a drug trafficker by night when she went incognito on the underground website Silk Road to illegally sell highly abused pharmaceutical medications,” the DEA said in a statement. “Dr. Bolles’ greed became a concern for public safety, and now she will face the consequences of her actions.”
Jared F. Gabbay, the task force agent responsible for taking down Bolles, describes in vivid detail how federal agents conduct drug busts on the Internet. And reading his complaint offers an important lesson for aspiring black-market drug dealers: Even if you use Tor and Bitcoin—both of which are supposed to enable anonymity—it is still very possible to get caught.
Here’s how it all went down. Keep in mind that this is reported from the DEA’s criminal complaint, and Bolles hasn’t yet been convicted of anything in connection with the charges.
First off, Gabbay’s job is to essentially troll black market sites like Silk Road and purchase illicit goods using an undercover alias. In this case, Gabbay noticed a seller account that opened in March 2013 operating under the profile name “MDPro.” For whatever reason (Gabbay doesn’t say), he targeted it.
MDPro offered a handful of products: Phentermine (for weight loss), Adderall, Valium, Xanax, Butane Hash Oil (a weed variant) and a few other types of painkillers. MDPro also offered “physician consultation” services and “assistance with how to get what you want or need when being seen in a doctor’s office.” Silk Road publicly catalogs previous transactions, and by the summer of 2013, MDPro had amassed more than 610 drug transactions, some of which are listed below.
MDPro was an active, even helpful, member of the Silk Road drug community. On June 2, 2013, the account belonging to MDPro offered a friendly doctor’s advice on “Heroin Arterial Injection,” basically a how-to guide on the best ways to shoot dope. At this point, Gabbay had no idea who MDPro was in the real world. He was simply hoping that MDPro would screw up when he ordered some goods from the account. That came pretty quickly.
Between June 12 and Sept. 3 of this year, Gabbay says he made four undercover purchases on his Silk Road account from MDPro. He made the purchases using Bitcoin, the only currency accepted on Silk Road.
His first purchase, for instance, was for two lots of 80-milligram Oxycontin tablets, for which MDPro was charging 0.90 BTC (about $100 back in June). Five days later, on June 17, Gabbay checked his DEA-purchased P.O. Box. Sure enough, there was a package. It contained a shipping invoice from a company called “Samples Unlimited” that listed an order of “Sour Patch watermelon candy” and an envelop containing a “bulky item.” Inside, there was a sealed box of Sour Patch candies, and inside the sealed box was a “silver, heat-sealed Mylar anti-static type bag which contained a plastic baggie.” Inside the plastic baggie were the drugs.
For good measure, Gabbay made a few more purchases. The next order, 10 Diazepam 15-milligram tablets, came in a box that contained a sealed package of another popular kids candy, Airheads. Then he made an order of Xanax and Adderall. They came in a bag of Life Savers gummies. The next order came in a bag of Jolly Ranchers.
According to Gabbay, each of the packages listed a return address of “Samples Unlimited, 26 Fox Hunt Lane PMB 176, Bear, DE 19701,” a commercial P.O. Box. As you might have guessed, Olivia Bolles was the owner. She even used her personal email address, Olivia_Bolles@yahoo.com, to open the postal account. As his complaint explains, there were several more pieces of evidence that linked the shipping address and Olivia Bolles.
To obtain the P.O. Box, for instance, Bolles had supplied copies of her Delaware driver’s license and vehicle registration. To pay for the P.O. Box, Bolles used a personal credit card, a Visa, which listed her home address in Newark, Delaware. There was even photographic proof: Bolles allegedly used the Automatic Postal Machine—kind of like an ATM—to ship packages. Like ATMs, the APMs take pictures whenever a customer drops off a package. Gabbay obtained a photo taken when Bolles’ account was used and, sure enough, there was Bolles.
Gabbay then performed a forensic accounting analysis on Bolles’ bank accounts, paying close attention to how Bolles’ moved about $15,000 worth of Bitcoin into personal bank accounts. No transaction was greater than $3,000—another red flag.
“Based upon my knowledge of Silk Road, I know vendors generally exchange Bitcoins to a national currency by performing many smaller transactions at irregular intervals rather than in regular large transactions,” Gabbay writes. Vendors who earn large quantities of Bitcoins perform transactions in this manner to avoid triggering money laundering and currency reporting requirements.
Gabbay’s financial forensic analysis is actually pretty impressive. He located several bank accounts that belonged to Bolles, including six Green Dot Bank accounts and six PayPal accounts, all showing transactions “consistent with Bolles’ activity on the Silk Road marketplace.” Gabbay then requested records from eBay on an account that belonged to Bolles, and found a number of more-than-suspicious items, including:
Where Bolles was actually getting her supply seems a bit unclear. Gabbay writes that Bolles was sending money to a “suspected illicit Codeine supplier in Bamenda, Cameroon,” but there were also funds wired to individuals in the U.K., Ukraine, Pakistan and Latvia.
Last week, DEA agents arrested Bolles and her live-in girlfriend, Alexandra Gold, as they were driving near their home. According to the DEA, Gold has admitted to packaging illegal drugs for sale.
As I reported earlier this month, there’s really no stopping black market sites like Silk Road. It’s also not nearly as anonymous as people think—especially when it comes to actually shipping products. But if you absolutely must sell drugs, for chrissakes, use a pseudonym when you sign up for a shipping account.