Grenade Launchers, Gold Bars And LSD: Feds Bust 35 Dark Web Criminals In First Nationwide Undercover Sting

Eric Lieberman | Associate Editor

The U.S. Department of Justice, in collaboration with several other federal law enforcement agencies, nabbed more than 35 alleged criminals in what the government believes to be the first nationwide undercover sting on the Darknet.

The operation, which spanned a year and involved the Secret Service, the Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), among others, “culminated in four weeks of more than 100 enforcement actions around the country,” the DOJ press release reads.

Authorities seized illicit goods both possessed and distributed, including cocaine, LSD, marijuana, hashish oil, 333 bottles of liquid synthetic opioids, 100 grams of fentanyl, more than 24 kilograms of Xanax, more than 100,000 tramadol pills, Oxycodone, MDMA and psychedelic mushrooms. Also taken were more than 100 firearms, like handguns, assault rifles and a grenade launcher.

The alleged offenders used dark web market sites such as Silk Road and used cryptocurrencies for many of the business deals. Overall, police confiscated roughly $20 million worth of the virtual money, as well as $3.6 million in U.S. currency and gold bars.

“Criminals who think that they are safe on the Darknet are wrong,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. “We can expose their networks, and we are determined to bring them to justice. This nationwide enforcement effort will reduce the supply of deadly drugs like fentanyl that are killing an unprecedented number of Americans.”

The law enforcement undertaking took a great deal of coordination. More than 40 U.S. attorneys’ offices were needed for the investigation, as well as several subdivisions within the aforementioned agencies. The suspects are residents in places like New York City, Maryland, Ohio, California and Vermont.

“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 Derek Benner, acting executive associate director for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. (RELATED: How The Daily Stormer Went From GoDaddy To The Shadows Of The Dark Web)

“The veil has been lifted,” he continued. “HSI has infiltrated the Darknet, and together with its law enforcement partners nationwide, it has proven, once again, that every criminal is within arm’s reach of the law.”

The dark web has been a hotbed for criminal activity since the advent of the internet, but even more so in recent years, as tech-savvy menaces and evildoers become more digitally advanced and adept. But, as they improve, so too does law enforcement — at least that’s how it appears after this situation and others. (RELATED: Dark Web Mastermind Would Have Eluded Cops If Not For His Interest In Rubber Gloves)

“Postal Inspectors and their law enforcement partners will spare no resource or expense to shine a light on the sale,” said USPIS Inspector in Charge Peter R. Rendina. “And distribution of illicit and dangerous items on the Darknet, that serve to destroy the lives of many through addiction and despair.”

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