HomeCity NewsAuthorities Arrest Two Local Men With Alleged Ties to Drug Ring

Authorities Arrest Two Local Men With Alleged Ties to Drug Ring

By City News Service

Two Burbank men are among four defendants charged May 16 in a federal grand jury indictment alleging they shipped hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of fentanyl-laced pills and cocaine to buyers nationwide who purchased the narcotics on darknet marketplaces.

Alejandro Soto and Austin Blacano, both 21, each face one count of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and cocaine, two counts of distribution of fentanyl, and one count of distribution of cocaine, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Soto and Blacano made their initial appearances Thursday before a magistrate judge in Los Angeles federal court and were each granted release on $20,000 bonds. A tentative trial date of July 9 was scheduled.

Craig Rushton, 23, and Christian McKibben, 20, both of Las Vegas, were arrested Thursday in that city, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors say that from at least April 2021 to May 2023, the defendants conspired with Brian McDonald, 23, of Van Nuys, and Ciara Clutario, 23, of Burbank, to traffic fentanyl and cocaine. Specifically, McDonald and Clutario allegedly created vendor profiles on darknet marketplaces to sell fentanyl, cocaine and other illegal narcotics in exchange for cryptocurrency, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

McDonald and Clutario were charged last year in a separate indictment connected to the alleged darknet drug trafficking conspiracy. An Aug. 6 trial date in downtown Los Angeles is scheduled in their case.

McDonald and Clutario allegedly monitored and maintained their darknet vendor profiles, including by updating drug listings and shipment options, tracking drug orders received through the profiles, and offloading cryptocurrency received on the darknet marketplaces into cryptocurrency wallets that the co-conspirators controlled, court papers show.

Soto, Blacano, McKibben and Rushton allegedly were directed by McDonald and others to package and ship the drugs sold on darknet marketplaces.

The defendants allegedly packaged the narcotics at the Burbank residence of McKibben and Rushton, federal prosecutors said.

Through the alleged conspiracy, the defendants sold and shipped hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of narcotics, including fentanyl and cocaine, to drug purchasers across the United States, according to the indictment.

If convicted of all charges, the defendants would face a mandatory minimum of 10 years in federal prison up to a maximum sentence of life behind bars, prosecutors noted.

First published in the May 18 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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