The US DOJ successfully closed its case against the father-son team of Jude LaCour by handing down guilty verdicts on fifty-two counts of money laundering and drug-trafficking offenses involving the sale of controlled substances over the Internet. Previously, son Jeffery pleaded guilty to drug-trafficking offenses. Also found guilty or pleading out were a "dirty dozen" doctors and pharmacists who facilitated the crimes. The doctors "reviewed" patient histories that visitors to the Jive Networks online pharmacy completed online through web forms, and prescribed Schedule III and IV controlled substances without seeing the patients or verifying patient identities; in many cases, the physicians wrote prescriptions for individuals who resided in states where they were not licensed to practice medicine. The pharmacists dispensed and shipped the drugs using Federal Express.
Jude and Jeffery were also convicted of money laundering. How much money are we talking about here? According to the DOJ press release, "During the three-year conspiracy, the organization distributed approximately 4.8 million dosage units of Schedule III controlled substances and approximately 39.2 million dosage units of Schedule IV controlled substances to Internet customers who had no valid prescriptions. Jive Network received well over 500,000 customer orders for controlled substances and illegally generated revenue in excess of $77 million."
A half-million orders? Thirty-nine million pills? Seventy-seven million dollars?
What sort of controlled substances were these dirt bags prescribing and dispensing?
Photo by Todd3utler
The answers are mind-boggling. Schedule III controlled substances include anabolic steroids, barbituates, and hydrocodone/codeine. Schedule IV controlled substances include narcotics, depressants and stimulants. The LaCours and their dirty dozen healthcare professionals were arms' distance drug dealers and the Internet was their street corner.
Some members of the ICANN community have commented that I get overly passionate when I argue in favor of stronger measures to prevent domain name registration and DNS abuse. It's criminal activities and figures like these that exorcise me so! Today, the lack of any meaningful form domain registration verification makes it trivial for criminals to not only deal controlled substances from street corners, but to hang neon lights advertising "get your fix here" above them.
I'm also not as naive about the cost to businesses built around domain registrations to imagine stricter registration measures come for free as some ICANN community members suggest. If stricter registration measures cost more, charge a higher domain fee for new domain name registrations. The higher fees themselves won't stop Conficker-like behavior, but registrars can use the additional revenue to reduce abuse registrations without penalizing folks who are renewing domains. They can also use the additional fees to add protective measures to prevent the kinds of attacks against domain registration attacks repeatedly performed against Comcast, ICANN, Panix, Photobucket, DomainZ, et. al.
The "domains should be cheap" argument is a tired segue to arguing "we can't slow down automated registration processing by introducing verification measures, it will be too expensive". Prove it. Ask current and would be domain name registrants whether they will stop registering domain names if the annual fee would cost more than a double chocolaty chip frappucino blended creme with whipped cream. Ask if they'd stop registering domain names if the domain name they registered were to be placed on hold while registrars verify the customer's contact information. But be certain to ask "Are you OK with these measures if they will reduce spam, phishing, scams and the illegal sale of controlled substances on the Internet" when you do. TLDs in countries that enforce stricter registration verification measures have (in some cases, markedly) lower incidents of malicious and criminal activities. Raising the bar is long overdue.