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Cops bust New Taipei woman for running marijuana ring

Pan used cryptocurrencies, encrypted messaging, GPS to avoid detection

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Pan (center) being escorted by CIB officers. (CIB photo)

Pan (center) being escorted by CIB officers. (CIB photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Police on Tuesday (Sept. 14) arrested a woman suspected of being the head of a marijuana-selling ring in New Taipei City.

During a press conference on Tuesday, the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) announced that a 25-year-old woman surnamed Pan (潘) has been arrested for allegedly masterminding a sophisticated marijuana smuggling and sales ring. The woman made use of technologies such as cryptocurrency, encrypted messaging, and GPS to conceal her transactions from the police.

Cops bust New Taipei woman for running marijuana ring
Pan (center) being escorted by CIB officers. (CIB photo)

In July, the CIB received a tip about suspicious packages and seized 2 kilograms of cannabis imported from overseas. The bureau set up a task force and began an investigation to track down the intended recipients of the contraband.

After a two-month investigation, police found that Pan, a resident of New Taipei City's Sanchong District, smokes marijuana and realized that she could purchase the class 2 narcotic from a website in the U.S. She allegedly would purchase the drugs with cryptocurrencies and then have them shipped to Taiwan concealed in tea leaf cans and biscuit boxes to evade detection.

Cops bust New Taipei woman for running marijuana ring
Pan (center) being escorted by CIB officers. (CIB photo)

Pan allegedly decided to begin selling the illegal drugs for a profit and recruited 12 accomplices with whom she communicated using end-to-end encryption on the messaging app Telegram. She told her accomplices to use fake names when receiving the packages to stymie efforts by police to discover their identities.

When it came to distributing the marijuana to her customers, she allegedly had her accomplices use a method known as "burying" to place the packages in unmonitored or inconspicuous places such as roadside trees, patches of grass, parks, telephone poles, and empty racks. Buyers would be provided a photo of the site where the package was to be dropped off and its GPS coordinates.

Cops bust New Taipei woman for running marijuana ring
Evidence seized by CIB. (CIB photo)

The purchases were made with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Tether in an effort to evade tracking by authorities. In customs, the CIB seized five parcels containing 8 kg of dried cannabis buds with a street market value of NT$12 million (US$433,299)

On Monday, CIB officers raided Pan's home, where they found 1.2 kg of marijuana, four mobile phones, five bongs, a bottle of vaping oil, and one vaporizer. Police then arrested Pan and a 35-year-old man surnamed Ho (何).

Cops bust New Taipei woman for running marijuana ring
Evidence seized by CIB. (CIB photo)

The CIB estimates that Pan made NT$2-3 million from her illegal operation. She and the 12 other suspects are now being investigated by the Taoyuan District Prosecutor's Office for violating the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act (毒品危害防制條例).

Pan was released on NT$300,000 bail. Prior to her arrest, Pan had built up a large following on social media with over 76,000 followers on Facebook and tens of thousands of fans on Instagram.

Cops bust New Taipei woman for running marijuana ring
Evidence seized by CIB. (CIB photo)

Cops bust New Taipei woman for running marijuana ring
Close up of bongs seized by CIB. (CIB photo)

Cops bust New Taipei woman for running marijuana ring
(CIB photo)

Cops bust New Taipei woman for running marijuana ring
(CIB photo)