‘Breaking Bad’ geek jailed for trying to buy ricin

Mohammed Ali under a UV light when he was arrested, covered in invisible liquid from handling a car with what he believed was ricin. Picture: PA
Mohammed Ali under a UV light when he was arrested, covered in invisible liquid from handling a car with what he believed was ricin. Picture: PA
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A COMPUTER geek has been jailed for eight years for trying to buy deadly ricin poison from the Dark Web after being inspired by the hit US television series Breaking Bad.

Software programmer Mohammed Ali, 31, was found guilty last month of attempting to possess a chemical weapon between January and February.

Sentencing Ali at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Saunders told him that having a chemical weapon was “much more serious that possessing a firearm”.

He said: “It seems to me this is the sort of case where a deterrent sentence has to be passed.

“Everyone needs to know that the possession of a chemical weapon is extremely serious and long prison sentences will follow.”

The judge commended law-enforcement agencies in Britain and the United States for ensuring that ricin - know as the perfect poison for leaving no trace - did not get into Ali’s possession.

He told the court yesterday : “I am satisfied so that I am sure, that Mohammed Ali had no intention of disposing of the ricin immediately.

“He intended to keep it. That created a real risk that at some stage he might decide to experiment with it or that it could fall into the wrong hands.”

Ali, from Liverpool, who was diagnosed with mild Asperger’s or autistic traits, stood impassively in the dock as he was sentenced.

A woman in the public gallery who is believed to be a family member wailed loudly as he was sent down.

Earlier, in mitigating, Joel Bennathan QC said: “Mr Ali has a large supportive family who care for him.

“They are distraught and appalled by the mess he has got into. When he is released he will be supervised and will be occupied in order to make a living and looked after by his family.”

Under the username Weirdos 0000, Ali struck a deal with a supplier on the internet black market to buy 500mg of powder for 500 US dollars (£320) - enough to kill 1,400 people.

Ali was unaware that his source Psychochem was in fact an FBI agent who tipped off police in England and substituted the consignment of ricin for harmless powder.

After the father of two took delivery of a toy car with five vials hidden in the battery compartment, police swooped to arrest him at his home.

Under ultraviolet light, Ali’s face lit up showing that he had handled the package - which had been specially treated with a marker substance.

Computer analysis showed that Ali first began trawling the internet for information on poisons such as abrin, ricin and cyanide in October last year.

The court heard Ali approached the undercover agent in January with a private message: “Hi, would you be able to make me some ricin and send it to the UK?”

In a series of encrypted chats, they discussed the price of a lethal dose, discounts for bulk orders and repeat purchases, and ricin’s “shelf life”, jurors were told.

At one point Ali asked: “How do I test this ricin?” and received the instruction: “You must test it on a rodent.”

Records showed that days before the delivery he made a payment of 2.2 Bitcoins, the online currency.

In his defence, Ali told jurors: “Because I had been watching Breaking Bad I just had ricin in my mind.”