Authorities detained a 19-year-old Florida resident for allegedly attempting to sell a biological toxin comparable to ricin, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Police arrested Jesse Korff on Saturday for purportedly trying to supply the toxin abrin to an undercover federal officer who posed as a prospective buyer from Canada in an online sting operation. A chemical assessment found "a detectable amount" of the lethal substance, which is derived from rosary pea plant seeds, inside candles left at a drop-off point for the alleged transaction.
The attempted sale reportedly began on "Black Market Reloaded," a website that tries to conceal the identities of users through use of an anonymous network and the electronic currency Bitcoin. Police identified Korff by tracing vehicle records for a car they spotted at the dropoff point.
"Had this been an actual sale to a real customer, the consequences could have been tragic," federal prosecutor Paul Fishman said in released comments. "Fortunately, an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a buyer was able to get a dangerous chemical weapon and its alleged seller off our streets."
Responding last month to a request from the Homeland Security Investigations operative for information on the toxin, Korff reportedly said it "comes in a liquid to put in a drink or in food like the bun of a cheeseburger."
In a Jan. 13 message, he allegedly said: "I guarantee it will work ... 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."
When the undercover agent asked how physician might interpret a victim's death, Korff allegedly replied that the effect of abrin would look like "a really bad case of the flu."
"No doctor will suspect foul play so there will most likely be no autopsy," he is said to have added.
Korff could be sentenced to life imprisonment and receive a $250,000 penalty if he is convicted of possession and transfer of a toxin for use as a weapon, the Fort Myers News-Press reported. A separate conviction for smuggling goods from the United States is punishable by as much as 10 years in prison and a penalty of up to $250,000.