Darren Hillyer (38) of Milton Keynes has been sentenced to five years of prison for conspiracy to import a firearm and ammunition from the dark web at Bristol Crown Court. According to the NCA, he posed as a woman in order to seek revenge on a “pedo ex-lover”. Hillyer ordered a Ruger LC9 9mm handgun and 50 rounds of ammunition from a dark web forum under the account name “Emma”. However, what he was unaware of, that the seller was an undercover agent (probably an NCA officer) and the package contained a plastic replica of the weapon and a DAB radio under the control of local NCA squads.
Hillyer contacted Ian MacPhee (47), a man he met online in a chat room (but not personally). Hillyer convinced MacPhee to receive his parcel containing the gun and the ammunition and forward to him after. As MacPhee entered a post office in Newton Abbott on the morning of 28 July 2015, ignorant of what was in the parcel, NCA Officers moved in and arrested the 47-year old man. After the police traced back the forwarding address, they managed to arrest Hillyer at an insolvency company in Euston, London, where he was working as an IT manager.
Hillyer’s colleagues described him to the police as a day-time “fantasist” and a “Walter Mitty type character”. According to them, the man claimed he worked for an intelligence and security agency who had issued him a firearm.
When the law enforcement authorities interrogated Hillyer, he claimed his activity on the dark web was part of the research, which was meant to help him in his application to join the NCA.
Hillyer and MacPhee attended their hearing at Bristol Crown Court on 10 September 2015, where Hillyer pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import a firearm and ammunition for it. MacPhee also pleaded guilty to attempting to evade the duty of an imported item.
Hillyer was sentenced to five years of jail time while MacPhee was ordered to pay a £275 fine at Bristol Crown Court on 26 November 2015.
Peter Vernon, senior investigating officer of the NCA made this statement regarding the case:
“Hillyer appeared to be using the dark web to play out a fantasy, his sentencing has hopefully provided a dose of reality for those looking to illegally purchase firearms online under the supposed anonymity of dark web forums. It is another reminder to criminals, you can be tracked and brought to justice. Ensuring that illegal firearms cannot be sourced in this way is a national security priority and we will continue to work tirelessly to prevent and disrupt those involved in the buying and selling of firearms on the dark web.”