HomeCity NewsTwo Arrested in Online Drug Trafficking Scheme

Two Arrested in Online Drug Trafficking Scheme

By City News Service

A Burbank woman and her male accomplice, who allegedly used darknet marketplaces to sell hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of fentanyl-laced pills and cocaine to buyers nationwide, have been indicted by a federal grand jury, officials announced Thursday.

The two 22-year-olds were charged in an eight-count indictment filed Wednesday in Los Angeles federal court, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Defendants were charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and cocaine, five counts of distribution of fentanyl and one count of distribution of cocaine. The man is charged with one count of possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, court papers show.

He has been in federal custody since his arrest on May 4, and his arraignment is scheduled for May 25 in downtown Los Angeles. The Burbank woman is expected to make her initial federal court appearance in the coming weeks.

According to the indictment, from at least April 2021 until this month, the two suspects conspired to sell fentanyl and cocaine via darknet marketplaces, websites that are not accessible via ordinary means. The male suspect, using aliases, created vendor profiles on these marketplaces to sell illegal drugs in exchange for cryptocurrency, the indictment alleges.

The two suspects allegedly monitored and maintained the darknet vendor profiles, including by updating drug listings and shipment options, tracking drug orders received online and offloading Monero cryptocurrency received as drug deal payments into cryptocurrency, prosecutors said.

The male suspect allegedly recruited and hired accomplices, including the Burbank woman, to help with packaging and shipping the narcotics that they sold on the darknet. He directed her and other co-conspirators on how to package and ship the narcotics, and he assisted them in the packaging and shipping, the indictment alleges.

The indictment contends that in May 2021, he texted the woman to tell her that their darknet drug sales were doing well.

Later that month, the man allegedly texted a co-conspirator that he had just sold 20,000 pills to customers, according to court documents.

In June 2021, the man allegedly texted an accomplice that he had 34 drug orders he had to fill. The following month, he stated in text messages, “I’m really [trying to] make like [$5 million],” according to the indictment.

The proceeds from the drug sales — after being converted from cryptocurrency into cash — allegedly were stored by the suspects at their respective residences. They shipped fentanyl and cocaine that were sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the indictment.

The man also allegedly possessed firearms, specifically two gold-plated handguns — one without a serial number — to protect his drug trafficking business and the proceeds of drug sales made on darknet marketplaces, federal prosecutors said.

If convicted of all charges, the man would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison, and the woman would face 10 years. Each defendant also would face up to life in federal prison, prosecutors said.

First published in the May 20 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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