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November 16, 2021

A 25-year military veteran quietly became one of the more successful dark web narcotics dealers in history, according to the DOJ. With a $15 million fortune, and sales of liquid mushrooms worth more than $140 million in Bitcoin today, he had a lavish lifestyle to match his illegal empire, according to sources and court documents reviewed by Forbes.

to the U.S. government, one of its own, a 25-year military veteran named James Verl Barlow, has made a small fortune over eight years flogging psychedelic drugs on a variety of dark web bazaars under the name Tripwithscience. If the government account is right, one of the U.S. Army’s own was one of the more successful dealers to grace the internet underworld: prosecutors are still totting up what they claim are the 44-year-old Las Vegas resident’s criminal winnings, but expect them to be between $12 million and $15 million in assets, across expensive property, luxury cars, jet skis, mountains of cryptocurrency and loaded fiat currency bank accounts.

The Justice Department believes he was the coordinator of the Tripwithscience drug trafficking organization but had a number of co-conspirators, including his brother, 35-year-old Matthew Barlow. Together the crew carried out a complex, globe-spanning psychedelic operation, according to the Justice Department. It claimed the mushrooms themselves were grown by a business partner of the elder Barlow brother, Ronald Brust, while Matthew Barlow and another co-conspirator would mix the liquefied fungi in the U.S., before sending them out to Tennessee and the U.K. for further packaging and delivery. They primarily sold liquid psychedelic mushrooms in nine milligram vials for $20 each across all manner of markets, including Silk Road 2.0 and Empire, both now defunct, as well as more modern bazaars like Monopoly and Televend. The government claimed the crew used a variety of shill accounts to promote the main Tripwithscience brand too.

But by January this year, investigators were closing in, recovering data from what they claimed was Barlow’s Google account. Within his Google Drive were spreadsheets with sales information for both Tripwithscience and another vendor he helped run, called Perfectshrooms, the government wrote in a search warrant. It said that in one tab titled “2015 Received,” it showed the accounts made 704 darknet transactions, making just over 1,544 in Bitcoin, worth around $400,000 at the time, but now worth around $90 million. On another spreadsheet, data for Bitcoin income for each year was recorded, indicating he earned nearly 2,300 Bitcoins from 2014 to 2020, currently worth $140 million, prosecutors said. Meanwhile, he was earning around $4,000 a month working for the U.S. Army as a sergeant first class, according to a DOJ search warrant application.

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