Tuesday, federal officials announced the worldwide arrest of 15 drug traffickers and others who allegedly sold to tens of thousands of U.S. residents.
Under Operation Dark Hun, law enforcement officials stated that tens of thousands of sales of illicit goods and services across Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.
Following the DarkMarket takedown in January 2021, U.S. and international law enforcement agencies identified Darknet drug vendors and buyers, resulting in a series of complementary, but separate, law enforcement investigations.
Italian authorities also shut down the DeepSea and Berlusconi dark web marketplaces which boasted over 40,000 advertisements of illegal products. Four alleged administrators were arrested, and €3.6 million in cryptocurrencies were seized in coordinated U.S.-Italian operations.
Operation Dark HunTor resulted in the seizure of over $31.6 million in both cash and virtual currencies. Authorities stated that about 515 pounds of drugs were seized, including amphetamines, cocaine, opioids, and MDMA along with 45 firearms.
Darknet vendor accounts were also identified and attributed to real individuals selling illicit goods on active marketplaces, as well as inactive Darknet marketplaces such as Dream, WallStreet, White House, DeepSea, and Dark Market.
Operation Dark HunTor led to 65 arrests in the United States, one in Bulgaria, three in France, 47 in Germany, four in the Netherlands, 24 in the United Kingdom, four in Italy, and two in Switzerland. A number of investigations are still ongoing.
“This 10-month massive international law enforcement operation spanned across three continents and involved dozens of U.S. and international law enforcement agencies to send one clear message to those hiding on the Darknet peddling illegal drugs: there is no dark internet. We can and we will shine a light,” said Deputy Attorney General Monaco. “Operation Dark HunTor prevented countless lives from being lost to this dangerous trade in illicit and counterfeit drugs, because one pill can kill. The Department of Justice with our international partners will continue to crack down on lethal counterfeit opioids purchased on the Darknet.”
“The Darknet no longer provides a concealing cloak for criminals to operate,” said IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Chief Jim Lee. “The expertise of our agents and law enforcement partners helped uncover significant quantities of narcotics and money — both cash and virtual currency — derived from illicit means.”
“The point of operations such as the one today is to put criminals operating on the dark web on notice: the law enforcement community has the means and global partnerships to unmask them and hold them accountable for their illegal activities, even in areas of the dark web,” said Europol’s Deputy Executive Director of Operations Jean-Philippe Lecouffe.
The extensive operation, which lasted 10 months, resulted in dozens of federal operations and prosecutions, including:
- Four search warrants were executed in furtherance of a multiagency investigation resulting in the seizure of approximately $1 million in drug proceeds (including approximately $700,000 in cryptocurrency), eight firearms, one vehicle, and various controlled substances including MDMA, LSD, and cocaine.
- The FBI, DEA, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and USPIS jointly conducted the investigation. According to court documents, the targets of the investigation were operating over multiple Darknet marketplaces to traffic methamphetamine, counterfeit pressed Adderall (containing methamphetamine), MDMA, cocaine, and ketamine to customers throughout the United States.
- The investigation revealed that the organization’s base of operations was in Houston, Texas, and the organization shipped to various cities throughout the United States.
- Six defendants are charged in a five-count indictment in the Southern District of Ohio with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, distribution of controlled substances, sale of counterfeit drugs, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
- The FBI in conjunction with the USPIS, FDA, and DEA, had been investigating a criminal enterprise that operated two Darknet vendor accounts.
- One of the accounts was operated out of the Miami area and the other out of the Providence, Rhode Island, area.
- According to court documents, the vendors, Luis Spencer, 31, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Olatunji Dawodu, 36, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and Alex Ogando, 35, of Providence, Rhode Island, allegedly advertised and sold pressed fentanyl pills throughout the United States.
- Agents identified several other co-conspirators and obtained search and arrest warrants for each. During the execution of the warrants, agents seized approximately $770,000, one weapon and approximately eight pounds of pressed fentanyl.
- Spencer, Dawodu, and Ogando are charged in the District of Columbia with conspiracy to distribute 400 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl.
- Kevin Olando Ombisi, 32, and Eric Bernard Russell Jr, 36, both of Katy, Texas, are alleged to have participated in Darknet controlled substances trafficking activities using the moniker Cardingmaster and are charged in a 10-count indictment in the Western District of Tennessee with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, distribution of controlled substances, attempted unlawful distribution of controlled substances, sale of counterfeit drugs, money laundering conspiracy, and mail fraud.
- According to court documents, Ombisi and Russell are alleged to have used the moniker Cardingmaster and conspired and attempted to, and did unlawfully distribute the Schedule II controlled substance methamphetamine, which was falsely represented to be Adderall, through the mail in the Western District of Tennessee and elsewhere.
- In conjunction with their arrests, the government seized more than $5 million in assets alleged to be connected to the drug trafficking activity.
All defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.