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A Florida teenager nabbed in an undercover sting sold and delivered deadly toxins on the Web, federal agents said in court documents this week.
Jesse William Korff, 19, of LaBelle, in southern Florida near Fort Myers, was arrested last weekend and charged with possession and transfer of a toxin for use as a weapon and smuggling goods from the U.S. Authorities said Korff tried to sell abrin — a highly noxious toxin similar to ricin — to an undercover federal agent.
Federal prosecutors said a search of Korff's home found a shotgun with a silencer, two meth labs, both abrin and ricin and a pipe bomb, which officers detonated at the scene.
He was ordered held Friday pending transfer to New Jersey for trial on the charges, which could bring a life sentence if he's convicted.
In documents made public in connection with the detention hearing, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security detailed the sting by which they nailed Korff.
Trading in Bitcoin on the website Black Market Reloaded, or BMR — a competitor to Silk Road, the underground drug and hacking site that federal authorities shut down in October — Korff offered illegal and dangerous goods for sale, according to the affidavit.
Like Silk Road, BMR was accessible only through the anonymity-shielding proxy network Tor. (BMR has since said it has closed for "security" reasons and refers would-be customers to Silk Road, which has already re-emerged.)
"[T]he oral dose would be 150mg of abrin that is enough for a 330 pound target." — Jesse Korff as quoted in federal affidavit
Customers sophisticated enough to tame the not-so-user-friendly Tor Project software and network could find user profiles on which black market entrepreneurs sold biological agents; abrin, ricin and other toxins; firearms; explosives; counterfeit goods and documents; and illegal drugs, the government said.
Korff was selling abrin, and in the transaction with the undercover agent, he provided instructions for how to use it, specifying that "the oral dose would be 150mg of abrin that is enough for a 330 pound target" and that "it is not a pill it comes in a liquid to put in a drink or in food like the bun of a cheeseburger," according to transcripts of the negotiations attached to the affidavit.
If it was to be used in a drink, Korff helpfully suggested light rum or whiskey, the messages showed. The victim should "die by the forth [sic] day," he allegedly wrote.
"I guarantee it will work," he allegedly wrote. "If you drop the abrin someone's drink Wednesday he will be dead Friday and there is no way to trace it after 24 hours of ingestion."
"If you drop the abrin in someone's drink Wednesday he will be dead Friday and there is no way to trace it after 24 hours of ingestion." — Jesse Korff as quoted in federal affidavit
Korff told the agent he would deliver the abrin — which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists as an "extremely toxic plant protein" similar to ricin — in hollowed-out candles, according to the affidavit.
If the buyer was satisfied, Korff allegedly wrote, "I can always make more."
The candles were duly delivered on Jan. 15 — in a McDonald's bag — the federal agents said, and Korff was as good as his word. They were found to contain "a detectable amount of abrin," according to the affidavit.
Korff's estranged uncle and sister were at the detention hearing Friday morning but wouldn't speak to reporters.
Their attorney, Daniel Endrizal, told reporters that Korff lost both of his parents before he was 15 and had been living in foster care ever since.
"He's had a tough way to go, he really has, but we're not making excuses for him," Endrizal said.