Pharmacist charged with trafficking drugs worth nearly $400m

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A darknet vendor and a pharmacist have been indicted over selling opioid pills worth millions of dollars in Bitcoin

A 44-year-old man and a 38-year-old man have been charged by a federal grand jury in the US for their illegal sales of opioids on the darknet.

Both of the men reside in Costa Rica, with the former being a US citizen who is alleged to have illegally purchased OxyContin and morphine pills primarily from the latter, a pharmacist.

The darknet vendor would launder payments to the pharmacist to purchase narcotics. He is alleged to have then sold the drugs on numerous darknet markets, including Silk Road and AlphaBay, in exchange for Bitcoin. The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said the amount of opioid pills sold numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

According to the indictment, the pills were advertised as being the “old formula” of OxyContin, which did not contain tamper-resistant features such as a crush-proof feature which prevents a user from inhaling or injecting the pills after pulverising them.

It is further alleged that the man’s darknet sales involved him sending bulk shipments of narcotics in pill form from Costa Rica, often concealed in tourist souvenirs, to co-conspirator re-shippers in the US.

Once the shipments were received by the customer, the darknet market would release funds in Bitcoin. Customers paid over 23,903 Bitcoin for these darknet market sales, amounting to approximately AUD$392 million.

Both the darknet vendor and the pharmacist, referred to as “co-conspirators” in the indictment, are alleged to have laundered payments in the form of Bitcoin and international wire transfers.

A seven-count indictment charged counts of Conspiring with Persons to Distribute Controlled Substances, Distribution of Controlled Substances, Conspiring with Persons to Import Controlled Substances, Conspiring to Launder Money, and Laundering of Monetary Instruments.

The charges are a warning to drug traffickers worldwide that neither the shroud of the darknet nor of virtual currency can hide their illegal activities from the vigilance of law enforcement, said Acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin.

“The opioid epidemic is a crisis crippling many families in this country,” added Kelly R. Jackson, IRS-Criminal Investigations Special Agent in Charge of the Washington DC Field Office.

“This international group profited off of people’s addictions, revictimising them when they were already vulnerable.

“This group purposely distributed opioids that did not contain a safety additive and prevented inhalation of the drug,” said Jackson.

“Years ago when drug dealers and traffickers moved to the darknet and started using virtual currency to conceal and expand their network, Criminal Investigations also moved our playing field to the darknet to bring groups like this to justice.”

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