Mar 20, 2018 | By Benedict

Dutch police have arrested four people on suspicion of drug dealing. The accused, who had supposedly been running a dark web operation, had a network of three 3D printers for printing fake Nintendo cartridges and ink cartridges, which they would stuff with cocaine, MDMA, and other drugs.

The inherent 3D printability of retro game cartridges has been exploited many times over the years—usually for innocent reasons: a 3D printed, Nintendo-inspired harmonica, for instance, or a DIY version of the Nintendo Entertainment System.

For four residents of the Netherlands, however, the idea of 3D printing their own Nintendo-style game cartridges had a rather different end goal.

Police recently arrested these four (three men, one woman), who were based in Amsterdam and the small town of Werkendam, on suspicion of running a large-scale drug dealing operation. One of their tactics? 3D printing Nintendo-style game cartridges, stuffing them with illicit drugs like cocaine and MDMA, and shipping them off to far-flung locations like Australia and Singapore.

The idea was that these innocent-looking packages would go undetected by authorities, with computer games commonly distributed across borders with minimal fuss.

The Harmonicartridge, an example of a Nintendo-style 3D print (unrelated to the drug bust)

To make their drug-concealing devices, some of which were shaped like regular printer ink cartridges, the suspected criminals used a setup of three 3D printers at their Werkendam location. These 3D printers have now been confiscated, along with computers, a firearm, cars, drugs (obviously), and several other items.

Police tracked the suspected dealers through dark web sites like Hansa Market and Dream Market, where the suspects had been listing their illegal products for sale. When police raided the premises, they caught them red-handed, logged into these sites under their dealing aliases.

Interestingly, rather than immediately shutting down the dealing operation, police covertly kept it running for a few weeks in order to trace the names of buyers—a tactic that is sure to spook any dark web users who think they are totally safe and secure.

Police seized 3D printed game cartridges, drugs, and other items

(Image: De Telegraaf)

At the end of the day, it’s quite strange to imagine criminals scouring Thingiverse and other 3D model websites, looking for innocent-looking 3D printed objects they can stuff with drugs. In a sense though, you have to give them credit for their ingenuity, if not their competence in staying anonymous.

Given the relative uniqueness of the whole operation, we suspect this news won’t produce a clamor to “ban 3D printers,” either in the Netherlands or elsewhere, though it might make you think twice next time you load up Goldeneye on the N64.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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