NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A Florida man faces federal charges after authorities said he sold a deadly toxin to an undercover agent.
Jesse William Korff, 19, of LaBelle, Fla., was arrested over the weekend in Florida. He was charged with smuggling and possessing a toxin — in this case, abrin — for use as a weapon. Abrin is a natural poison found in the seeds of a plant. It is similar to ricin.
Prosecutors said Korff negotiated over the Internet with the undercover agent in New Jersey.
"He allegedly peddled the poison on a virtual black market of illegal and dangerous good, hidden in the shadow of a secretive computer network favored by cybercriminals," said New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.
Korff received $1,500 over the Internet from the agent and left the toxin hidden in two candles at a rest stop near Fort Myers, Fla., authorities said. Korff was arrested after the candles were found to contain abrin.
"Had this been an actual sale to a real customer, the consequences could have been tragic," Fishman said.
According to the criminal complaint, Korff maintained a seller's profile on a website called BMR, through which he negotiated the sale of two liquid doses of abrin. He and the buyer agreed on a price of $2,500 for the two doses. The undercover agent transferred the equivalent of $1,500 in Bitcoin from a bank account in New Jersey to Korff on Jan. 6.
They agreed the buyer would travel from Canada on Jan. 15 to pick up the abrin. Korff sent the agent pictures of the location at a rest stop about 10 miles from Fort Myers.
Korff dropped off a fast food bag at the rest stop, authorities said. An undercover agent collected it and left an additional deposit toward the remaining payment. Korff was under surveillance during the transaction.
Officials said even the smallest doses of abrin are potentially lethal to humans if ingested, inhaled or injected. It typically causes death within 36 to 72 hours of exposure.
Korff is scheduled to appear before a magistrate in Florida on Tuesday afternoon and later be transferred to New Jersey.