A Manhattan man tried to buy the biological toxin ricin from an undercover agent posing as a drug vendor on an online black marketplace, U.S. authorities said in criminal charges unsealed on Tuesday.
The man, Cheng Le, has been in federal custody since he was arrested on Dec. 23, and is set to appear in federal court on Friday, according to the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office.
His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A grand jury indicted Le on one count of attempting to obtain a biological toxin and one count of using a false name in the furtherance of unlawful business, according to the court filings.
The criminal complaint against Le said he used an unidentified black marketplace located within the “dark web,” a space on the Internet in which users’ true identities remain hidden while they communicate. Le allegedly contacted an agent who had taken over an online identity that had been previously used by a trafficker in illicit materials and asked to buy several lethal doses of ricin, a highly potent toxin derived from castor oil plant seeds.