Maryland Man Jailed for 57 Months for Dark Web Drug Distribution
A Maryland based man was convicted and sentenced to over five years in prison in a federal court. He was also given three years of supervision after release from the prison for what the court documents quoted as drug distribution and money laundering charges.
The man, identified as Ryan Farace, 34, was said to be involved in the lucrative illegal business of manufacturing Xanax drugs, which he later distributed through the dark web markets for Bitcoins. According to the investigators, Farace together with his co-conspirator, identified as Robert Swain, used long transactions of the drug proceeds in order to hide their source.
The judge presiding over the case ordered the suspect to forfeit a cash fine for judgment of approximately $5,665,000 and, also, an additional 4,000 Bitcoins. The judge also ordered him to forfeit all the assets that had been seized by the detectives during the search warrant that was executed in January. The assets seized include $1.5 million in cash, around $2.5 million worth of computer equipment and 1,100 Bitcoins.
The other suspect, Swain, from Freeland, Maryland, had pled guilty to charges pertaining money laundering, and he faces a maximum period in prison of about 20 years. He is now awaiting the final verdict which is scheduled at the beginning of 2019.
According to the court’s documents, the suspect, Farace, acquired a pill pressing machine and counterfeit Xanax pills molds. He utilized them to make pressed pills from the loose alprazolam powder. He advertised the pill form of the drug on the dark web marketplaces to his worldwide customers in exchange for Bitcoins.
During the court hearing, Farace admitted to using encrypted messaging software to communicate with his customers directly. He also pleaded guilty to using the United States postal services for shipping the illegal drugs to his customers, a popular method used by dark web drug traffickers to remain anonymous and avoid street contact.
According to the police detectives, the suspect used to pay the post mail package using pre-paid debit cards created from stolen identities. During the arrest, the law enforcement officer seized fake a driver’s license which had a different name than the suspect’s but had a photo that resembled the suspect.
The dark web drug trafficker was very prominent from December 2013 to March 2017, when he is alleged to have distributed over 900,000 Xanax pills. Before the two were arrested, they conspired with other dark web cybercriminals to launder the drug proceeds.
According to the court’s document, Farace made use of different pseudonyms to contact his co-conspirator, which greatly facilitated the cash laundering. In order to stay anonymous, the suspects opened private rental mailboxes with the United States Post Office using fake names thus staying ahead of authorities.
It is recorded that during the time the two drug traffickers were in business, they received proceeds through the mail exceeding $5 million in cash. He exchanged the cash for bitcoins and shared with his co-conspirator. At one time, Farace and Swain travelled all the way to New Jersey to collect $200,000 in cash after Farace exchanged the stored Bitcoins.
In another incident on February 16, 2017, the two suspects used fake names to lure a victim into exchanging Bitcoins. They also tried to defraud the same person with a higher amount of Bitcoins.
This case was in conjunction with the directives given by the United States Department of Justice through an operation referred to as Dark Gold. A number of suspects using the dark web and postal services to smuggle illegal drugs have been apprehended and sentenced to various terms depending on the offense, thanks to the operation.
According to the operation, the Department of Justice brought together different agencies, like Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigations, to dive deeper into the dark web and flush out cybercriminals. This is an example of successful cooperation between agencies as is greatly advised by international policing agencies like Interpol.
The operation, Dark Gold, is similar to another operation started by the Federal Bureau of Investigation referred to as Operation Disarray to fight dark web crimes. All these have been motivated by the increasing level of crimes instigated by the dark web and other encrypted internet communication channels.