Altadenan Among Six Indicted for Large-Scale Drug Distribution Via the Dark Web

Published : Monday, August 21, 2017 | 3:23 PM

Five men and a woman were charged by a federal grand jury on Thursday with conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substances via the dark web.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California said Michele Pickerell, 47, of Altadena; William James Farber, aka Bill Danzerian, 37, of Los Angeles, and Bryan Anthony Lemons, 29, of Los Angeles, were charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to launder money.

Also, Richard Thomas Martinsen, 29, of Studio City; Michael Angelo Palma, 22, of Los Angeles; and Faysal Mustafa Alkhayat, 31, of Woodland Hills, were charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substances.

The statement added that Farber and his co-conspirators, operating under the name PureFireMeds, sold narcotics including marijuana, cocaine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, psilocybin, MDMA (Ecstasy), LSD, Xanax, and ketamine on dark web marketplaces, including Silk Road and Pandora.

Using the dark web marketplaces, the accused allegedly sold controlled substances in Fresno and Kern Counties and throughout the U.S.

With the closure of Silk Road by law enforcement in October 2013, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Farber and his co-conspirators then began selling on the AlphaBay dark web marketplace under the name HumboldtFarms.

HumboldtFarms became one of the largest vendors on AlphaBay and allegedly completed more than 78,000 orders of marijuana on the site to customers throughout the United States and the world, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Palma, Martinsen and the others allegedly used Pickerell’s home to assemble an estimated 1,000 parcels of marijuana a week that were mailed throughout the United States.

Farber and Lemons also allegedly exchanged at least $7 million in bitcoin for cash that was allegedly the proceeds of the HumboldtFarms drug distribution.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said dark websites such as AlphaBay operate on “The Onion Router” or “TOR” network, a special network of computers on the internet, distributed around the world, that is designed to conceal the true Internet Protocol addresses of the computers accessing the network, the locations and identities of the network’s users and computer servers hosting the websites, which are referred to as “hidden services.”

Dictionary.com defines the dark web as the portion of the Internet that is hidden from conventional search engines, as by encryption; the aggregate of unindexed websites:

In its statement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said “hidden services” have complex web addresses, generated by a computer algorithm, ending in “.onion” and can only be accessed through specific web browser software designed to access the TOR network.

AlphaBay was shut down by U.S. law enforcement on July 5, 2017, and is no longer in operation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

The case against the accused is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Bakersfield Police Department with assistance from the Los Angeles Joint Regional Intelligence Center, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Prosecuting the case are Assistant U.S. Attorneys Grant B. Rabenn and Ross Pearson, it added.

This case was also the product of the work of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) which was created in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

If convicted of conspiracy to possess controlled substance, all six defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine.

If convicted of conspiracy to distribute controlled substance, each defendant faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

If convicted of the money laundering conspiracy, Farber and Lemons each face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine up to $500,000 or up to twice the value of the property involved in the transactions, whichever is greater, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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