Manhattan DA Busts Big NJ Dark Web Drug Ring

A smattering of the many illicit substances authorities found in the bust.
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A smattering of the many illicit substances authorities found in the bust. Manhattan District Attorney's Office

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office has charged three men with being involved in a dark web-enabled drug scheme, confiscating hundreds of thousands of illicit pills in New Jersey's biggest-ever drug seizure.

In a Tuesday press release, the D.A.'s office confirmed that following a joint investigation with the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Homeland Security Investigations, it had indicted Chester Anderson, Ronald MacCarty, and Jarrette Codd with first-degree money laundering and conspiracy in the fourth and fifth degrees.

The three are accused of laundering $2.3 million in cryptocurrency (apparently by loading up prepaid debit cards and withdrawing cash across Manhattan and New Jersey) that they allegedly obtained by operating an online drug marketplace on the dark web—a shadowy part of the Internet where transactions are made, often using cryptocurrencies, in an underground ecosystem that lives parallel to most of the public's Internet experience.

Prosecutors say that under the screen name Sinmed, Anderson helmed two online storefronts that hawked ketamine, heroin laced with fentanyl, LSD, methamphetamine, and bootleg Xanax, among other illicit substances, then shipped them to people in 43 states. Anderson, who officials have described as the operation's head honcho, was also charged with multiple counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the fourth and fifth degrees, as well as first-degree identity theft.

The investigation began when authorities received a tip two years ago about suspicious amounts of cash being withdrawn from Manhattan ATMs, as well as at a teller machine that could turn cryptocurrency into dollar bills, as the Times reports. At a press conference, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said that the three men had withdrawn an estimated $1 million—in $700 increments—over roughly two years.

Vance's investigators then used cryptocurrency to buy thousands of Xanax pills, GHB, and ketamine and other illicit substances from a dark web marketplace, Dream Market. They also intercepted packages meant for buyers, which contained many such illegal pills. When officials searched the men's rproperties in New Jersey a few weeks ago, they found a staggering amount of substances: All told, they uncovered 420,000 to 620,000 tablets of alprazolam (the anti-anxiety medicine better known as Xanax), GHB (otherwise known as roofies, the date rape drug), and much more.

Buckets on buckets of pills the operation shipped out to buyers all around the U.S. (Manhattan District Attorney's Office)

As the New York Times reports, The Wireless Spot, a cellphone store in Asbury Park that MacCarty owned, became a "drug factory." There, authorities found tools that could stamp tablets with names, and presses that could spit out a whopping 16,000 pills an hour.

The Sinmed bust is particularly significant, given that its success placed it in the top three percent of vendors selling on Dream Market, according to Wired. “If you are engaging in illicit activity on the dark web, you are on notice: we know how to find you, we know how to put you out of business, and we know how to hold you criminally accountable," Vance said in a statement.

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