Confused about the dark web? Here’s an explainer
A California grand jury has indicted an Oakland man on felony charges after he admitted to trying to buy a chemical weapon on the dark web to murder his wife, according to the FBI.
Sandford Faison, 41, used Bitcoin to pay $95 for the unnamed toxic chemical — $75 for the deadly substance, $20 for shipping — in December, an FBI agent wrote in a criminal complaint against Faison. The person offering the chemical was an undercover agent.
“I aim to ensure my wife’s death within the 18 months, ideally long after our divorce is finalized (about six to eight months from now),” Faison wrote in a dark web posting Dec. 3, according to the complaint. “This is the only way I can begin a new life with full custody of my child. We currently live together, and I expect to have (easy) access to her environment and food for another 2 months at least.”
Faison was arrested in January following an FBI anti-terrorism squad investigation, Bay Area News Group reports. The April 2 indictment in federal court in Oakland charges Faison with one count of attempting to acquire a chemical weapon.
The FBI didn’t name the toxic chemical, but described it as “a colorless, volatile, flammable, and highly toxic liquid” that’s “easily absorbed through the skin and may produce life-threatening systemic effects with only a single drop.” The FBI said there aren’t many “legitimate” uses for the toxic substance other than research, adding that it “can be used to fatally poison humans.”
Faison wasn’t just using the dark web to buy the chemical weapon — he was also looking for advice on how best to use it, according to court records.
“Do you know if this stuff has any ill interactions with water?” Faison asked the undercover FBI agent offering to sell the substance, the complaint said. “Also, I can’t find any info on it’s (sic) freezing point. Any insight welcome, and aiming to purchase before xmas!”
The purported seller told Faison the package had been shipped through the U.S. Postal Service in later December and provided a tracking number, according to the FBI.
In postings on an anonymous dark web messaging board, the FBI said Faison wrote “lengthy” questions about the chemical weapon he sought.
“I’m aware that I’d be a primary suspect if she so much as slipped on a banana peel. I feel that (chemical #1) poisoning would reduce my culpability by delaying a final/accurate diagnosis and undermine any investigation,” Faison wrote Dec. 3, according to the FBI. “I’m no chemist but I am cautious and patient; I also have a separate location to mix chemicals.”
The complaint said Faison wanted to know details on recipes involving the deadly chemical, asking: “Which and where does one get the needed bacteria? Do I just seal it with kombucha for a few days?” He wondered if he could “take advantage of” his wife’s coffee habit by spiking the grounds or coffee maker she used, and if he could paint the compound on a surface his wife would touch, according to the FBI.
The package was delivered on Jan. 8 at the address of an associate of Faison, and he picked it up from the front porch around 5:45 p.m. to take back to his home in Oakland, the complaint said. The FBI was trailing him as he went home. At about 7 p.m., a secret tracking device agents attached to the package indicated Faison had opened it, and he emailed the seller to say it had been received, the complaint said.
At 8 p.m., agents raided Faison’s home on a search warrant and questioned him, the complaint said. He admitted that he wanted to use the substance on his wife and said his behavior was “premeditated,” the complaint said. Faison also said he mulled hiring a hitman, according to the complaint, but abandoned that thought after he realized it “would be as expensive as getting a divorce.”
Faison admitted the postings on the dark web were his, the complaint said.
During the search of Faison’s home, FBI agents found “personal protective equipment including two sets of gloves, and a respirator, as well as the cellular telephone used to track the package,” the complaint said.
If convicted of the charge, Faison could face a $250,000 fine and “any term of years imprisonment,” according to the indictment.
He pleaded not guilty to the charge in court last week, Bay Area News Group reports.