CLEBURNE COUNTY, Ark. (KTHV) - A Cleburne County man is accused of dealing thousands of dollars’ worth of marijuana through the mail.
Investigators said the suspect used high-tech methods to move a high-grade product. The postal service allegedly delivered three pounds of hydroponics to a Heber Springs address every week and never knew. The street value of that package, according to police, totaled to be more than $10,000.
Christian Olson, 22, was taken into custody on March 17 and is being accused of operating a drug ring with the help of the U.S. Postal Service.
"We don't know how long this has been going on, but it’s been going on a while," said Lt. Phil Burnham with the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office.
Burnham said that at least three pounds of Hydroponic pot were delivered to Olson each week. He said Olson paid about $6,000 for each package and ended up with a profit of over $16,000 a month.
"It's a pretty high-grade marijuana. It's a lot different than the marijuana you'd grow out here in your backyard,” explained Burnham.
The pot may not have been grown in our backyard, but chances are high it was grown on this side of the border. The return address turned up for a vacant house listed for sale in California. Hydroponic is legal to grow in California.
How did these packages manage to slip past the USPS drug dogs every week?
The Cleburne County Sheriff's Office said it's a lot simpler than you may think. Inside of the shipping box is a plastic bucket. Inside that bucket is what appear to be tin foil packets, but inside of the packets are Ziploc bags filled with a quarter pound of marijuana. Somehow that combination was enough to slip through the noses of the drug dogs.
Another interesting detail to this crime was the way Olson managed his profits.
"I'm not really familiar with Bitcoin. I had never really heard of it,” said Burnham.
Deputies said Olson kept his money in Bitcoin, which is a financial app that doesn't require banks.
"Criminals may be interested in using Bitcoin thinking they might be more anonymous in their transactions,” explained Emily Reeves, a digital marketing specialist.
She told THV11 that Bitcoin may be convenient for criminals now, but that may not last.
"Criminals have the upper hand right now because people don't really understand it. But as it becomes more used, it is not going to be a currency that can be used to hide transactions that are illegal,” Reeves said.
Authorities are working with the postal service to track how long these packages have been shipped.
Christian Olson is facing both state and federal charges and has been released from the Cleburne County Jail.