A 31-year-old New York man has pleaded guilty to charges of selling synthetic opioids and fentanyl derivatives, including a drug consignment that caused the overdose death of a Canadian in 2016.
U.S. authorities asserted that Chukwuemeka Okparaeke, also known as Emeka, committed the drug crimes by using the dark web to receive and execute buyer orders under the online moniker “Fentmaster”.
Reportedly, the 18-year-old Tim Teklinski from the City of Vancouver browsed online in search of illicit narcotics. The man was able to locate Fentmaster online, and went ahead to buy three grams of fentanyl’s synthetic version.
Like most opioid overdose deaths that have been reported in the past, Teklinski died in November 2016 after an accidental fentanyl overdose.
Dark Web Drugs and Illicit Crypto
A press release by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) intimated that the defendant sold highly addictive opioid drugs using a dark web marketplace. The criminal proceeds of his illicit trade depended on the use of cryptocurrency that was paid to him by drug buyers.
Law enforcement agents claim that Okparaeke provided false information about the location of an excess of $7 million in Bitcoin that was gained through drug sales. Later, the defendant would admit to possession of the digital coins, and agree to forfeit the virtual money as part of a plea agreement.
Okparaeke – who was a medical student before venturing into the illicit business of peddling synthetic opioids – is reported to have been loyal to the now-defunct AlphaBay market that enabled him to achieve online anonymity, in addition to the communication encryption he utilized.
Prosecutors alleged that the defendant operated a successful drug operation between July 2016 and March 2017 – he imported several kilograms of fentanyl analogues such as acryl fentanyl and furanyl fentanyl from the Asian countries of Hong Kong and China into U.S. soil.
In addition, was accused of shipping substantial quantities of other synthetic opioids like U-47700, which is classified as a Schedule I Drug. Nicknamed “pink”, U-47700 was acknowledged by U.S. authorities for its high potential for abuse – in 2015 alone, the dangerous synthetic opioid was linked to 46 cases of drug overdose deaths.
Further, investigators discovered that the defendant used online personas to reinforce his image as an established dark web vendor. The man is said to have boasted about his achievements in online forums by offering counsel to other budding drug dealers.
Okparaeke published an article to detail his exploits, it focused on strategies he used to circumvent the law enforcement radar.
According to a court indictment filed against the defendant, officers attached to the Customs and Border Protection agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security intercepted suspicious packages at an airport random screening.
On investigation, the inspectors discovered that the packages, which had been addressed to “Emeka Okparaeke” in New York, had originated from Hong Kong and contained a substance that turned out to be a fentanyl analogue.
U.S. law enforcement raided a location in New Jersey that is said to have been used by the defendant to distribute the banned narcotics. The operation yielded several other illicit products and materials used in drug shipment.
The defendant pled guilty to the charges levelled against him, including a count of distributing the Schedule I pink drug that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, one count of obtaining a controlled substance analogue of dangerous fentanyl, which attracts a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
In addition, Okparaeke faced another count of making false statements in relation to the illicitly-gained crypto worth $7 million.
As it stands, Okparaeke is due for sentencing by a U.S District Court in December 17, 2020.