NEW YORK (AP) — A Manhattan man looking to acquire ricin so he could sell “simple and easy death pills” and guarantee “risk-free” murder was convicted of federal charges Thursday.
The jury returned the verdict against 22-year-old Cheng Le after a four-day trial, convicting him of attempting to acquire ricin as a weapon, postal fraud and identity theft. Le faces a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of life in prison. A sentencing date was not immediately set.
Among the evidence introduced at trial were statements Le made in writing about getting ricin from an FBI covert employee, including: “If you can make them into simple and easy death pills, they’d become bestsellers.”
The jury was also told that Le said: “I’ll be trying out new methods in the future. After all, it is death itself we’re selling here, and the more risk-free, the more efficient we can make it, the better.”
Le was arrested in December after prosecutors said he contacted an FBI covert employee online using an encrypted messaging service and asked if he sells ricin. Authorities said Le was wearing latex gloves when he went to a postal office to retrieve a fake shipment of pills.
Le’s lawyer argued the government didn’t have proof that Le was the computer user who contacted the FBI employee.
But prosecutors said Le’s computer was open to the online account used to communicate with the FBI employee when Le’s apartment was raided.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Le tried to acquire ricin through what is known as the “Dark Web,” a part of the Internet where criminal marketplaces thrive.
“As Le himself put it, he was looking for ‘simple and easy death pills’ and ways to commit ‘100 percent risk-free’ murder,” Bharara said in a news release. “He was thwarted in his poisonous plot.”