Three individuals arrested for involvement in darknet narcotics trafficking involving pills pressed with fentanyl

 

Date: February 24, 2021

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

WASHINGTON — Luis Miguel Teixeira-Spencer, Olatunji Dawodu, both of South Florida, were arrested in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after being indicted on Monday by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia for illegal sales of opioids on the darknet. The indictment charges the defendants with Conspiracy to Distribute More than 400 Grams of a Mixture and Substance Containing Fentanyl. Additionally, Alex Ogando, 35, of Providence, Rhode Island, was also arrested February 23, 2021 and charged by complaint with Conspiracy to Distribute More than 400 Grams of a Mixture and Substance Containing Fentanyl. All three defendants will have initial appearances before a federal magistrate judge today.

The indictment alleges that, since early 2017, Spencer and Dawodu operated a vendor site that sold pills pressed with fentanyl on numerous darknet markets, including AlphaBay, Dream, Empire, and Wall Street, in exchange for bitcoin. Spencer also used encrypted messaging services to communicate directly with customers and sold pills directly over messaging services. Ogando was in communication with both Spencer and Dawodu as of the online drug trafficking conspiracy. On several occasions, the defendants sold fentanyl pills that they shipped via the U.S. Postal Service to buyers in the District of Columbia.

The FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service executed multiple search warrants yesterday in South Florida and Rhode Island. At the Rhode Island location, agents recovered over $350,000 in cash, approximately 2,000 grams of pills containing fentanyl, and packaging materials. At the South Florida locations, agents recovered more than $12,000 in cash, approximately 1,400 grams of pills containing fentanyl, packaging material, and a firearm.

"The use of sophisticated technology and virtual currency may raise unique challenges to investigating these cases, but this investigation demonstrates that law enforcement can nonetheless root out the sale of dangerous opioids on the darknet," said Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin. "We will not let the use of sophisticated cyber technology impair our ability to combat the problem of opioid abuse."

"As the opioid epidemic continues, IRS-CI will continue to lend our cyber expertise in tracing virtual currency transactions and dissolving the perceived anonymity of the dark web," said Kelly R. Jackson, IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge. "We look forward to continuing to work with our law enforcement partners to get these dangerous drugs and those who are trafficking them off our streets."

"The three co-conspirators charged today exploited those suffering through an opioid epidemic to enrich themselves," said James A. Dawson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office Criminal Division. "This case demonstrates the FBI's commitment to working with our law enforcement partners around the country to show these criminals and others like them that they can no longer hide behind the dark web to operate their online, illicit marketplaces, because we will infiltrate their networks, shut them down, and bring them to justice, no matter where they are."

"The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to shining a light on those trafficking fentanyl and other illicit drugs on the dark web", said Inspector in Charge Peter R. Rendina, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Washington Division. "Postal Inspectors, armed with advanced technology, digital forensics and data analytics, continue to work closely with law enforcement partners to thwart those using the U.S. Mail in furtherance of their crimes."

"The tragedy of the opioid crisis continues to be fueled by those who use every method available, including the Dark Web, to sell their illicit pills to those with substance abuse addictions," said Special Agent in Charge Mark S. McCormack, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Metro Washington Field Office. "The FDA will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to protect the public health by disrupting and dismantling counterfeit prescription drug manufacturing and distribution."

The charges in the indictment and complaint are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. The charges carry a mandatory 10 years up to life in federal prison.

IRS-CI Cyber Crimes Unit (Washington, D.C.), the FBI's Hi-Tech Opioid Task Force, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations investigated this case. The Hi-Tech Opioid Task Force is composed of FBI agents and task force partners, including special agents and officers of the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and detectives from local assisting police agencies. The task force is charged with identifying and investigating the most egregious Dark Web marketplaces, and the vendors operating on the marketplaces who are engaged in the illegal acquisition and distribution of controlled substances, to include fentanyl, methamphetamine, and other opioids. The case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Laura Crane and Rachel Fletcher of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, Paralegal Specialist Katie Thomas, and Legal Assistant Peter Gaboton. Additional assistance has been provided by the United States Attorney's Offices for the District of Rhode Island and for the Southern District of Florida (Fort Lauderdale and Miami offices) and the FBI's Miami and Boston Field Offices.