Ian Hoffmann, 42, of Bell Canyon, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Hoffman and his co-conspirators operated vendor accounts on several darkweb marketplaces.
Hoffman admitted selling heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine through several vendor accounts, including CaliCartel and BuxomBrunette on Dream Market; Playground on Silk Road 3.1 and; GambinoCrimeFamily on Wall Street Market. Hoffman conspired with at least two others as a part of his drug trafficking operation. One of his co-conspirators, Catherine Stuckey, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.
The Northern California Illicit Digital Economy (NCIDE) Task Force launched an investigation into the vendor accounts operated by the defendant in 2018. Investigators made the first undercover purchase on October 15, 2018, when they purchased two grams of cocaine from “Calicartel” on Dream Market.
The investigators received 2.9 grams of a “white powdery substance that tested positive for cocaine” on October 22. Research on the postage label used on the package of cocaine led investigators to an account with Encidia, an internet postage provider. The account belonged to Gabriel Alva, one of Stuckey’s accomplices. Alva’s Encidia account led to the discovery of five accounts with the United States Postal Service (USPS) under Alva’s name.
On January 10, 2019, the investigators ordered 3.5 grams of heroin from “RaiseAppeals” on Dream Market. On January 11, investigators conducting surveillance on Alva’s residence observed Stuckey exit her residence with a bin. Alva left the house after Alva and carried a bag. After loading the bin into a car, Stuckey and Alva drove to a local Post Office. At the Post Office, Stuckey and Alva dropped 42 packages into a box for outgoing mail. They picked up some of the free shipping supplies offered by USPS and returned to Alva’s residence.
During the investigation, federal law enforcement officers would conduct undercover purchases from the vendor accounts mentioned above while surveilling the suspects. They observed the suspects drop off the packages ordered by law enforcement at Post Offices in California.
Investigators obtained warrants for email accounts and Venmo accounts associated with the suspects.
During the execution of a search warrant at Hoffman’s residence in May 2019, federal agents seized more than two kilograms of heroin, more than seven kilograms of cocaine, and more than 19 kilograms of methamphetamine. They also seized cryptocurrency and a firearm during the search.
U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez will sentence Hoffman on Jan. 11, 2022. Hoffmann faces a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison and a $10 million fine. He will likely spend much less time in prison.