Empire Market: Ex-Anglican Bishop’s Son Guilty To Illegal Drugs Trafficking

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Michael David Hough 30, the son of the former Anglican Bishop of Ballarat has pleaded guilty to dark web-related drug importation and drugs trafficking charges. According to the Victorian County Court criminal document on 11 September 2020, Hough was charged for importing and trafficking cocaine from the defunct Empire Market and made payments with Bitcoin. 

He conducted these transactions from March to October 2019. His lawyer Raphael de Vietri admitted at the court that Hough has been using drugs since he was 17-years-old.

In June 2019, authorities intercepted a parcel that contained a metal mekanic helicopter set marked as “document”, but within which was a pure MDMA ordered from the defunct Empire Market of the darknet. Besides, the officials intercepted multiple parcels of a Tension “game box” within which was hidden ketamine, cocaine, and MDMA at the Melbourne airport. Numerous packages containing drugs were seized of which an investigation led them to Hough’s Bentleigh East home. 

His arrest was orchestrated by the joint operation of the task force investigation, which included the Victoria police, Australia Border Force, and Australia post. Authorities raided his home on 31 October 2019. Officers also got hold of his mobile phone and found some messages he sent to his drug customers from March 2019. 

The message was about informing his customers the reason for his temporal absence as he claimed his van was stolen, and he was not able to find it back. He also stated that he was in shortage of LSD and ketamine as the suppliers were not available; however, he had restocked the MDMA. The chat also revealed that he had a considerable number of customers with one of them being in desperate need of acid for the weekend. 

Another customer asked him if he had LSD of which he replied he had ketamine. It was also reported that he had one regular customer known as “sugar barbie”. His business was more or less like the “go-to man” for a drug after purchasing from the defunct Empire Market, owing to drugs trafficking

A forensic examination was conducted on Hough, and based on the findings presented to the court by a forensic psychologist, he had low self-esteem, and in a bid to fight it to appear with good social standing, he wanted to make money quickly. Dr Michael Davis also said to the court that Hough had a mixed personality disorder. He also had a narcissist trait, a poor sense of self, and appeared to be a bit impulsive. 

When asked about what he spent his money on, the doctor said Hough mainly spent on flashy Airbnb apartments and designer clothes. He was an adherent user of cocaine which ended up affecting his behaviour as claimed by the doctor. It was also said that Hough reached the point where he consumed cocaine every 40 minutes.

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Image: Herald

According to his lawyer, Hough dropped out of Ballarat high school after resorting to drugs at 17. He then proceeded to work at the cemetery briefly. His mother, who was always around him died of a terminal lung condition while he was on remand and this really affected him as claimed by his lawyer. 

He mainly dealt with people he got to know in Melbourne party scenes. His drugs trafficking were guided with his knowledge in making use of encrypted browsers and messaging apps. He had his customers at his fingertips, explaining why he could write a single message to explain his temporary absence at a go. Hough sold drugs to fund his image. Living the luxurious lifestyle was to portray himself contrary to his low self-esteem as claimed by the doctor. 

His father, who resigned from being a bishop a decade ago, has tendered his reference on behalf of Michael David Hough. According to the report, Hough was asked by the court in his recent appearance through a video link at Marngoneet correctional to reappear on 25 September for his sentence. 

The defunct Empire market from which he bought the majority of his drugs staged an exit scam, escaping with about $30 million of vendors’ funds in escrow. 

About four months ago, a 19-year-old man identified as Darwin was also arrested similarly after being suspected of controlling a drug network purchased from the dark web and conducting drugs trafficking. His case was concluded after the joint investigation of the Northern Territory Joint Organized Crime Taskforce which included Australia Border Force, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, and the Department of Home Affairs.

The dark web markets have been the preferred place for individuals to execute their orders as they get the freedom needed to buy whatever they want without being scared of law enforcement monitoring their browsing activities. However, law enforcement has successfully gone behind the anonymity of the dark web to identify individuals who get involved in drugs trafficking in recent times.

Source: Herald Sun


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