Three people from New Jersey have been charged with operating a dark web storefront, having sold and shipped to buyers in 43 states. An announcement of the arrests was made at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, with evidence on display, on April 16.
District Attorney Cyrus Vance said that prosecutors have met with challenges due to rising cyber crime, requiring them to exploit technology to adapt quickly. Today, the dark web is used by criminals to traffic human beings, deal illegal drugs, and distribute child pornography. However, Vance wants these people to take this case as a warning, and show that law enforcement has the power to find them.
“It is believed, in New Jersey, that this is the largest pill seizure in New Jersey’s history,” said the district attorney behind a large and empty orange paint bucket that once held an immense number of pills. “And it’s certainly, the largest seizing … if not the largest one for New York State prosecutors to have taken down on the dark web.”
The press release states that “hundreds of thousands of counterfeit Xanax tablets” were found after law enforcement executed search warrants of the suspects’ properties. Various quantities of ketamine, alprazolam, steroids, methamphetamine, fentanyl-laced heroin, and cryptocurrency (bitcoins) were also found.
Chester Anderson, 44; Jarrette Codd, 41; and Ronald MacCarty, 51, were arraigned an hour after Vance’s announcement. All were charged with laundering more than $2.3 million in proceeds and conspiracy.
Tips Lead to Drug Machine
A tip regarding large, suspicious ATM withdrawals in New York and New Jersey led investigators to the suspects. Further investigation revealed that McCarty, who owned a cellular phone store called the Wireless Spot, purchased a pill-presser, which was on also on display for the announcement.
People gathered around the silver, metal machine before the announcement began, chuckling, saying it looked like an empty pop-corn machine. The online storefront—called “Dream Market,” and operated by a user named “sinmed,” (Anderson)—was found by investigators soon after the pill-press was discovered, according to Vance.
“Now Dream Market is a lot like Amazon.com,” said the district attorney. “You have a shopping cart when you go shopping there; you have seller ratings—I’m not kidding—you have seller ratings—one star, five stars, in terms of the quality of consumer experience … You have customer reviews. And you can order materials and drugs to be shipped to your own home.”
But the dark web requires more than an internet connection to access. You need a Tor browser: a browser designed for anonymous web surfing. You also need cryptocurrency to make purchases. The next step in the investigation is for prosecutors to delve into Dream Market’s subscriber database, and uncover the relationship between subscribers and the organization.
Over 1,000 packages shipped by the defendants to recipients were intercepted by the Manhattan DA’s Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau; and investigators made undercover purchases on Dream Market using cryptocurrency.
Anderson faces the most charges, including criminal sale of a controlled substance and identity theft: a total of six charges. The district attorney noted that drug possession charges were not given. This is because the drugs were seized in New Jersey, and he trusts that New Jersey will stack charges for drug possession on the suspects accordingly.