The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), through the Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement (JCODE), and Europol has disrupted the opioid trafficking industry by arresting 179 suspects linked to a darknet-enabled web of drug trafficking activity.
A September 22 press release by the DOJ intimated that the arrests were made pursuit to a nine month operation dubbed Operation DisrupTor, which mobilized international efforts to target the global opioid trafficking that takes place on the dark web.
According to the DOJ, Operation DisrupTor took place across the U.S. and Europe in full realization of law enforcement ambitions to build the partnership between JCODE and Europol against the illicit sale of banned substances.
In highlight, the press release reported that the operation was designed to work in extension of the law enforcement successes that were witnessed following 2019’s Operation SaboTor and the high profile darknet shutdown of Wall Street Market.
Looking back, the 2019 Wall Street market seizure led U.S. law enforcement, and its global counterparts, to access sensitive information concerning the complex web of darknet drug traffickers.
The resultant pieces of intelligence led the agencies to critical investigations that culminated in the recent Operation DisrupTor, which has been marked by the apprehension of the already-mentioned 179 dark web drug traffickers and fraudsters who dealt in the sale of illegal goods and services.
The arrests included 121 cases in the U.S., and two persons in Canada following a request lodged by the United States, 42 arrests in Germany, eight on Dutch soil, four in the UK, three in Austria, and one in Sweden.
In addition, the operation led agents to a large inventory of drugs, weapons, and currency. It is reported that investigators seized more than $6.5 million worth of fiat and digital currency, about half a tonne worth of drugs – including several kilograms of deadly fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and MDMA.
Further, it was established that the drug traffickers were involved in the illicit weapons trade that was facilitated by darknet vendor accounts opened in platforms like the now-defunct AlphaBay, Wallstreet, Empire, Nightmare, White House and DeepSea markets.
A Dozen Federal Prosecutions
In the last nine months, Operation DisrupTor has led to a host of federal prosecutions spanning a number of U.S. states.
The Los Angeles JCODE Task Force apprehended five defendants linked to illegal drug sales that are said to have involved customers in 35 U.S. states and several global destinations. Two of the five arrested persons are reported to have pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges and are said to be facing 15-year prison sentences if found guilty.
Another 32-year-old Canadian, Arden McCann, faced charges of conspiring to import banned substances into the U.S. and launder money through a well-constructed operation that involved the sale of alprazolam and fentanyl derivatives.
Elsewhere, five suspects, including 36-year-old Khlari Sirotkin and 32-year-old Kelly Stephens, Sasha Sirotkin from California, Nevada-based Sean Deaver and Abby Jones, were implicated in a 21-count court indictment, which alleged that the five individuals were members of an online drug trafficking outfit.
In addition, Operation DisrupTor was credited with the events leading to the prosecution of the suspects involved in the firebomb attack plot involving an Empire Market darknet vendor and a licensed pharmacist. In the case, the two suspects pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges relating to a plan to destroy a competitor’s premises.
Another case involved the Texas-based 39-year-old Aaron Brewer who was faced charges involving the conspiracy to obtain with the intent to distribute a controlled drug. It was alleged that the suspect was involved in heroin and cocaine drug sales, which were facilitated by the dark web.