The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency have discovered $26.5 million worth of illicit narcotics and Firearms as well as miscellaneous goods which were distributed across the United States of America via darknet vendors in a widespread criminal conspiracy involving over 90 criminal cases.
ICE reports that the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit, in coordination with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, were able to gain unprecedented access to a network of money laundering and criminal activities in the darkest crevices of the internet through a well-devised scheme of infiltration and destabilization.
Federal agents went undercover by posing as a money laundering operation on various darknet sites tods garnish the trust and support of the illegal trading community, where they worked tirelessly to succeed in their ventures and climbing in rank by earning nationwide renown for their accuracy and services.
By exchanging United States Dollars for various cryptocurrencies, they were able to become close enough to major decision makers in a multi-million dollar scheme of illegal drug trafficking and arms dealing that they could begin to build 90 cases against around the nation involving at least 65 high profile targets with the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS) of the Department of Justice Criminal Division arresting and prosecuting 35 major darknet vendors.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ICYMI?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ICYMI</a>: ICE HSI New York operation leads to arrests of 3 dozen Darknet vendors selling illicit goods & weapons, and seizure of drugs and $23.6 million <a href="https://t.co/1KB4lHTNB5">https://t.co/1KB4lHTNB5</a> <a href="https://t.co/VQPFjQmuT8">pic.twitter.com/VQPFjQmuT8</a></p>— ICE (@ICEgov) <a href="https://twitter.com/ICEgov/status/1013829655671930880?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 2, 2018</a></blockquote>
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The operation is to date one of the most successful infiltrations of such marketplaces in the history of the darknet, outside of the collapse of the silk road services which have become widely known as exposing the online criminal underworld to the nation.
These results were announced by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Executive Associate Director Derek Benner of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Special Agent-in-Charge Angel M. Melendez of HSI New York Field Office, Inspector in Charge Peter R. Rendina of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) New York Division, Assistant Director Kenneth Jenkins of the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) Office of Investigations, and Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) New York Division.
“The Darknet is ever-changing and increasingly more intricate, making locating and targeting those selling illicit items on this platform more complicated. But in this case, HSI special agents were able to walk amongst those in the cyber underworld to find those vendors who sell highly addictive drugs for a profit,” said Acting HSI Executive Associate Director Benner. “The veil has been lifted. HSI has infiltrated the Darknet, and together with its law enforcement partners nationwide, it has proven, once again, that every criminal is within arm’s reach of the law.”
“Criminals who think that they are safe on the Darknet are wrong,” said Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. “We can expose their networks, and we are determined to bring them to justice. Today, we arrested more than 35 alleged Darknet vendors. We seized their weapons, their drugs, and $23.6 million of their ill-gotten gains. This nationwide enforcement effort will reduce the supply of deadly drugs like fentanyl that are killing an unprecedented number of Americans. I want to thank our federal prosecutors, and the dedicated federal agents with DEA, Homeland Security Investigations, the Postal Inspection Service, and the Secret Service for their outstanding work.”
“Postal Inspectors and their law enforcement partners will spare no resource or expense to shine a light on the sale and distribution of illicit and dangerous items on the Darknet, that serve to destroy the lives of many through addiction and despair,” said Inspector in Charge Rendina. “Today’s announcement of our law enforcement partnership and operation sends a strong message to those who choose this illegal path, we are watching and will bring you to justice for your crimes against the American public.”
“The Secret Service is proud to work with our law enforcement partners to help combat one of the largest threats to the U.S. financial infrastructure, money laundering with virtual currency,” said U.S. Secret Service Assistant Director Jenkins. “The Secret Service continues to adapt along with these cybercriminals to maintain our level of success in stopping them.”
“At this crucial time of unprecedented drug-related deaths, one of the greatest threats we face is cyber drug trafficking,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Hunt. “Because the Darknet invites criminals into our homes, and provides unlimited access to illegal commerce, law enforcement is taking steps to identify and arrest those involved. I applaud all the agencies who participated in this groundbreaking investigation.”
The operation itself is considered to be extremely extensive being conducted over a period of four weeks, and in that amount of time over 100 enforcement actions were taken by the agencies investigating.
Those 100 enforcement actions include the arrests of the 35 vendors believed to be the key playmakers in the transporting of illegal narcotics, firearms, and other stolen merchandise on the darknet; the execution of 70 federal search warrants that resulted in the seizure of massive amounts of illicit narcotics.
During the execution of the federal search warrants, federal agents discovered over 333 bottles of liquid synthetic opioids, 100,000 tramadol pills, 100 grams of fentanyl, more than 24 kilograms of Xanax, and additional seizures of Oxycodone, MDMA, cocaine, LSD, marijuana, and a psychedelic mushroom grow found in a single residence.
Also found and seized during the execution of the federal search warrants were more than 100 firearms, that included: handguns, assault rifles, and a grenade launcher.
As per property seized, agents confiscated five vehicles that authorities say were purchased with the illicit proceeds of drug or arms trafficking that were also used to facilitate criminal activity such as the transportation of the goods being sold on the darknet.
During the raids on the homes authorizes found more than $3.6 million dollars in physical United States currency and gold bars; the confiscation of nearly 2,000 Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies that had an approximate value of more than $20 million dollars; the confiscation of 15 pill presses, which are used to create illegal synthetic opioids; and the seizure of Bitcoin mining devices, computer equipment, and vacuum sealers.
While the majority of the cryptocurrency community are law-abiding citizens who simply stand against big cartel banking and the federal reserve, there are criminals taking advantage of the process of security and prosperity of those creating legitimate cryptocurrency businesses.
The cryptocurrency community is applauding the efforts of the ICE HSI agencies and all law enforcement involved in these raids because it ensures the integrity of the future of currency and banking is protected when criminals such as these are taken down.
The ICE Agency issued a press release with the following names of those arrested:
<blockquote>Antonio Tirado, 26, and Jeffrey Morales, 32, of the Bronx, New York, was arrested on June 18, and separately charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York with distribution and possession with intent to distribute narcotics, including cocaine, LSD (also known as “acid”), marijuana, and hashish oil. Additionally, Tirado was charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of his drug trafficking offenses.Following an investigation into a Darknet marketplace vendor using the moniker “Trapgod,” investigators executed search warrants at homes in two residential neighborhoods in the Bronx leading to Tirado and Morales. As alleged in the complaints, during the execution of the search warrants at the Tirado and Morales residences, agents seized controlled substances including powder cocaine, marijuana, and LSD, as well as various precursor powders, liquids, and reagents, and other narcotics-related paraphernalia including marijuana growing equipment, a home chemistry lab, scales, and heat sealing packaging materials. In Tirado’s home, agents recovered a fully loaded shotgun alongside a narcotics stash. Investigators in Tirado’s apartment recovered additional evidence of Darknet narcotics distribution, such as numerous U.S. Postal Service shipping boxes, already addressed to customers around the United States, which boxes contained hairbrushes some of which had already been packed with powder cocaine for distribution.</blockquote>
<blockquote>Jian Qu, 30; Raymond Weng, 24; and Kai Wu, 22, all of Queens, New York, along with Dimitri Tseperkas, 22, and Cihad Akkaya, 22, of Middle Island and Port Jefferson, New York, respectively, were each arrested on June 18, and charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York with participation in a conspiracy to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. Tseperkas and Akkaya were also charged with firearms offenses relating to the drug conspiracy. Investigators monitoring Darknet marketplaces found accounts used by some of the conspirators, leading agents to execute search warrants at three addresses in residential communities in Flushing and Mt. Sinai, New York. From the residences, agents recovered approximately $400,000 in U.S. currency, 140 kilograms of suspected marijuana and an additional 10 kilograms of suspected marijuana vape cartridges, 12 kilograms of suspected Xanax pills, over half a kilogram of suspected ecstasy, four pill presses, mixers, and pill press parts, over a dozen kilograms of various powders, packaging materials, and paraphernalia. While searching the residence where Akkaya and Tseperkas were found, investigators recovered three loaded shotguns, including a tactical double-barreled shotgun loaded with 14 shells, and over 50 shotgun shells, as well as significant quantities of narcotics, packaging materials, and paraphernalia including a money-counting machine. Review of electronic evidence recovered from the residences proved the conspirators’ connections to Darknet marketplaces, use of cryptocurrency, and narcotics distribution schemes.</blockquote>
<blockquote>More than 50 Darknet vendor accounts were identified and attributed to the real individuals selling illicit goods on Darknet market sites such as Silk Road, AlphaBay, Hansa, Dream, and others. HSI New York Field Division and MLARS coordinated with law enforcement and federal prosecutors to investigate 65 targets identified by the undercover operation in more than 50 Federal districts, including: the District of Arizona, the Eastern District of Arkansas, the Western District of Arkansas, the Central District of California, the Eastern District of California, the Northern District of California, the Southern District of California, the District of Colorado, the District of Connecticut, the Middle District of Florida, the Northern District of Florida, the Southern District of Florida, the Northern District of Iowa, the District of Kansas, the District of Maryland, the Eastern District of Michigan, the District of Minnesota, the Eastern District of North Carolina, the Western District of North Carolina, the District of New Hampshire, the Northern District of New York, the Southern District of New York, the Western District of New York, the District of North Dakota, the Northern District of Ohio, the Southern District of Ohio, the District of Oregon, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the District of South Carolina, the District of South Dakota, the Eastern District of Texas, the Northern District of Texas, the Southern District of Texas, the Western District of Texas, the Eastern District of Virginia, the District of Vermont, the Eastern District of Washington, and the Western District of Washington.FBI was part of the investigative team in the Northern District of California.</blockquote>
<blockquote>HSI would also like to thank U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the New York City Police Department (NYPD). The investigation is ongoing.</blockquote>
This operation was a huge success, and we're grateful as Americans that the Trump Administration and the federal law enforcement agencies within our government are shutting down these criminal enterprises.
Thank you to all law enforcement agencies involved!
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