Photo Courtesy of ICE
More than $23.6 million was also seized as part of the federal operation.
By Forum Staff
Through a year-long, coordinated national operation that used the first nationwide undercover action to target vendors on the Darknet, federal authorities were recently able to arrest at least 36 people and seize weapons, illicit goods, drugs, and $23.6 million of ill-gotten gains, according to U.S. Department of Justice officials.
Among the alleged Darknet vendors taken into custody were three Flushing residents: Jian Qu, 30, Raymond Weng, 24, and Kai Wu, 22. The trio was arrested last month along with Dimitri Tseperkas, 22, and Cihad Akkaya, 22, of Middle Island and Port Jefferson, N.Y., respectively, and charged with participation in a conspiracy to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. Investigators monitoring Darknet marketplaces found accounts used by some of the conspirators, leading agents to execute search warrants at three addresses in Flushing and Mt. Sinai, N.Y. From the residences, agents recovered approximately $400,000; 140 kilograms of suspected marijuana and an additional 10 kilograms of suspected marijuana vape cartridges; 12 kilograms of suspected Xanax pills; more than half a kilogram of suspected ecstasy; four pill presses, mixers, and pill press parts; more than 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.
According to DOJ, the national operation resulted in the following:
• Arrests of 36 Darknet vendors who engaged in tens of thousands of sales of illicit goods;
• Execution of 70 search warrants, resulting in the seizure of massive amounts of illegal narcotics, including 333 bottles of liquid synthetic opioids, more than 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 residence;
• Seizure of more than 100 firearms, including handguns, assault rifles, and a grenade launcher;
• Seizure of five vehicles that were purchased with illicit proceeds and/or used to facilitate criminal activity;
• Seizure of more than $3.6 million in U.S. currency and gold bars;
• Seizure of nearly 2,000 Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies, with an approximate value of more than $20 million;
• Confiscation of 15 pill presses, which are used to create illegal synthetic opioids; and
• Seizure of Bitcoin mining devices, computer equipment, and vacuum sealers.
“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 Homeland Security Investigations Acting Executive Associate Director Derek Benner. “The veil has been lifted.”
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein declared that criminals “who think that they are safe on the Darknet are wrong.”
“This nationwide enforcement effort will reduce the supply of deadly drugs like fentanyl that are killing an unprecedented number of Americans,” he added.