Criminal Fails at Blackmail, Bitcoin Stereotypes Disproven

A chemist threatened to kill supermarket shoppers with cyanide he bought on the dark web with bitcoins in a £2 million blackmail attempt. He’s received a seven-year prison sentence after racking up a long list of minor offenses and admitting to blackmail.

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Chemist Buys Cyanide with Bitcoin, Fails at Blackmail

David Ward Blackmail
Blackmailer David Ward, police mugshot

David Ward, 51, told a national supermarket it had contaminated food. Ward said it would cause “certain death.” He sent a vial of cyanide to the company’s headquarters: ten lethal doses.

Ward stated in a letter, posing as a group of disgruntled supermarket employees saying they were, “free to poison your products at any time of our choosing.”

“We have the power to destroy your company and we will unless paid,” Ward said, posing as the group of employees. “Don’t pay and people will die, I promise you, and we will want four million [pounds] then for the extra unwanted attention this would bring.”

DNA on the letter matched a sample he gave in 2012 due to unrelated charges.

“Had it not been for a DNA profile obtained from you in relation to an earlier offense, you may well have remained undetected and your scheme allowed to run at your discretion,” Judge Mark Dennis QC told the defendant.

Ward bought pure potassium cyanide with bitcoin through a dark net market after failing with his own recipe. While bitcoin is not anonymous, it is pseudonymous and becomes hard to trace when paired with the dark net.

Ward demanded the unidentified supermarket place an obituary in a national paper to signal their agreement to pay a ransom. Ward signed his letter, “a businessman.”

“Make the announcement and innocent people need not die,” he wrote.

Arrested a day before the blackmail deadline, he told police he acted alone and no food had been poisoned. Ward’s long list of minor offenses earned that his DNA be put into the UK police forces’ national database.

Bitcoin has appeared in headlines alongside such shocking stories in the past, including kidnapping plots where tens of thousands of dollars in ransom were demanded. Ross Ulbricht, furthermore, was alleged to be behind  murder for hires, although most of those charges have been dropped.

Staff Opinion: These headlines have led to mainstream media creating a negative stereotype of people who use Bitcoin, labeling them as criminals or evil people in general. However, this recent story proves that Bitcoin doesn’t facilitate illicit activity any more than fiat — it all depends on the person committing the crime. 

Images courtesy of Shutterstock, The Sun.