The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced the indictment of a Costa Rican pharmacist of allegedly sending shipments of controlled substances to the United States through a well-defined darknet drug scheme.
Through a seven-count indictment, a federal grand jury dug into the drug operation that involved the movement of narcotic substances, which were disguised as souvenirs.
The prevailing court charges have targeted 44-year-old David Brian Pate, a dual citizen in both the U.S. and Costa Rica, and the 38-year-old Costa Rican Jose Luis Fung Hou.
Both defendants are said to have conspired with other parties to distribute drugs, conspired to ship controlled substances, conspired to engage in money laundering.
How the Darknet Cybercrime Drug Operation Worked
The indictment has provided an explanation about how the Costa Rican pharmacist conspired with his co-accused to sustain the illicit drug operation.
The document states that the illicit drug operation was in existence between February 2012 and May 2020 – in which Pate would use various online nicknames such as “Buyers Club” to use dark web sites, online forums and cryptocurrency exchanges.
Allegedly, Pate bought the controlled substances, including OxyContin and morphine, from Costa Rica-based Fung, and used a money laundering process to make the payments in exchange for the drugs.
The acquired drug shipments would then be sold via the dark web, including the now-defunct Silk Road and AlphaBay markets, in exchange for Bitcoin.
Further, the indictment states that Pate’s role was to ship the pills obtained from the Costa Rican defendant to other re-shippers in the U.S. The accused drug dealer would then provide the co-conspirators with lists of customer orders to be used in the re-shipment of smaller drug packages to designated customers.
On receipt of the drugs, the darknet markets would release the payments in Bitcoin via escrow to mark a successful transaction.
Estimates show that the business received more than $275 million in Bitcoin over its lifetime.
A Multi-Jurisdictional Investigation
Reportedly, the case is also being investigated in Costa Rica by the Drug Trafficking Prosecutor’s Office, which has probed the matter although no evidence has since been draw to sustain charges.
It turns out that a case file 18-000766-305-PE was submitted to the Alajuela Criminal Court with a request for dismissal. The dismissal has since been issued as stated on June 16 by the Judiciary’s press office.
The U.S. DOJ intimated that the Costa Rican law enforcement collaborated with the IRS-CI Cyber Crimes Unit, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs in the darknet drug investigation.
While reflecting on the case, the Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Rabbitt of the DOJ’s Criminal Division acknowledged the law enforcement undertaking as an important milestone in the fight against the U.S. opioid drug epidemic.
The official highlighted allegations of the pair’s involvement in the sale of illicit opioids on U.S. soil by using darknet and cryptocurrency instruments. Rabbitt added that the police operation that led to the defendants’ indictment was the product of a collaboration between local and international partners in uncovering the darknet opioid market.
Further, the comments made by Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin for the District of Columbia echoed Rabbit’s points within context of the fight against drugs. The attorney said that the recent charges have served as a warning to other drug business operators across the world, an asserted that criminals hiding behind dark web platforms and virtual currencies have been put on notice.
The official confirmed the U.S. law enforcement’s commitment to the fight against the opioid crisis that continues to be enabled by cyber-enabled illicit groups that use cryptocurrencies and the dark web to hide their dealings.