United States Naval Intelligence software engineer pleads guilty to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances


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Date: October 27, 2021

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

Greenbelt, Maryland — Justin Ryan Best of Laurel, Maryland, pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; and Special Agent in Charge Timothy Jones of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Baltimore Field Division.

According to his guilty plea, from 2013 to April 2021, Best operated an illegal steroid manufacturing business from his Laurel, Maryland residence and conspired with others to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute, home manufactured steroids throughout the United States.

In March 2021, investigators received information about a suspicious parcel that had been shipped from a Chinese sender to Best's Laurel, Maryland residence. The shipment was flagged because two shipments from the same China-based sender were previously seized and contained equipment to illegally press pharmaceutical pills. The parcel destined for Best also contained a similar cargo description that was previously used for other Chinese shipments containing pill press components. After the interception of the parcel destined for Best, investigators discovered pill press components concealed inside bubble wrap.

As stated in his plea agreement, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Best's Laurel, Maryland residence. Officers located and seized 8,500 units of controlled substances used in manufacturing steroids, including two 2,000-milliliter jars of testosterone cypionate, 198 pills of oxandrolone, 114 pills of stanozolol, 61 pills of oxymetholone, nine 10-milliliter vials of testosterone enanthate, one 10-milliliter vial of testosterone phenylpropionate, syringes, and packaging and mailing materials.

In addition to precious metals, collectable coins, and $6,127 in cash, officers recovered approximately 167 firearms consisting of 120 handguns, 39 rifles, seven shotguns, and 25 silencers. Officers also seized hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition, as well as 277 firearm magazines and 18 sets of firearm accessories from Best's garage. Best agreed that the seized firearms, silencers, ammunition, magazines and firearm accessories were purchased with proceeds of his manufacturing and distribution of controlled substances.

In an interview with law enforcement, Best stated that he had manufactured and distributed steroids for approximately 10 years and that he purchased the raw material from Chinese sellers using cash or Bitcoin. Best also stated that he mixed and manufactured vials of steroids at his residence, sold the products on an encrypted messaging application, and commonly shipped the steroids using the U.S. Mail to customers throughout the United States. Best also informed officers that he was employed full-time as a software engineer and contractor for the United States Navy's Office of Naval Intelligence, which paid him a salary of approximately $140,000 a year. Best estimated that his drug trafficking operation generated an additional $100,000 per year.

Best faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison followed by up to three years of supervised release for conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis has scheduled sentencing for February 18, 2022 at 2 p.m.

This case was prosecuted utilizing resources from the Dark Market and Digital Currency Crimes (DMDCC) Task Force. The DMDCC Task Force is a joint effort between the U.S. Attorney's Office, HSI – Baltimore, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; the Food and Drug Administration, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Baltimore Police Department, and the Baltimore County Police Department, targeting the use of dark net marketplaces and digital currencies to facilitate criminal activities. The past several years have witnessed a significant increase in the use of the internet (both the clear net and dark net) and digital currencies to facilitate, for example, the illegal sale and distribution of narcotics and firearms, computer technologies (including hacking tools), and Personal Identifiable Information (PII). In response to this rising threat, the U.S. Attorney's Office, HSI, and their partners formed the DMDCC Task Force to facilitate stronger collaboration among law enforcement partners combatting these crimes.

United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the HSI, ATF, the Maryland State Police – Forensic Sciences Division and the Laurel Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey J. Izant and Caitlin R. Cottingham, who are prosecuting the case.