DoJ: Feds Bust Darkweb Vendor "Chemsusa"
According to an announcement by the United States Department of Justice, federal authorities arrested an individual for running the vendor accounts “Chemsusa,” “Chems_usa,” “Chemical_usa,” on Alphabay and Dream Market.
Profile: Dream Market Archive
Geoffrey S. Berman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), Philip R. Bartlett, the Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), and James P. O’Neill, the Commissioner of the Police Department for the City of New York (“NYPD”), announced today that RICHARD CASTRO, a/k/a “Chemsusa,” a/k/a “Chems_usa,” a/k/a “Chemical_usa,” and LUIS FERNANDEZ, have been charged with participating in a conspiracy to distribute carfentanil, fentanyl, and a fentanyl analogue over the “dark web,” including on AlphaBay and Dream Market. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is significantly stronger than heroin, and carfentanil is a fentanyl analogue that is approximately 100 times stronger than fentanyl. CASTRO was arrested this morning in Windermere, Florida, and appeared before Magistrate Judge Leslie Hoffman in Orlando. FERNANDEZ was arrested this morning in the Bronx, New York, and is expected to be presented today before Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein.
Law Enforcement Comments
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:
“Fentanyl is a chief culprit in the opioid crisis and carfentanil is 100 times stronger than fentanyl. Carfentanil is intended to be a tranquilizer for large animals. These were two of the terrifying drugs that Richard Castro and Luis Fernandez allegedly distributed in large quantities, including over the dark web, where they thought they could hide. I want to thank our partners at the FBI, USPIS, and NYPD for bringing this dark web conspiracy to light.”
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:
“Carfentanil is 10,000 more times potent than morphine. Nothing that dangerous and potentially lethal should be in the hands of users who don’t know what they’re taking, and don’t realize how quickly it can kill someone. The FBI New York and our law enforcement partners use sophisticated methods to seek out these secret and well-hidden operations, to stop the deadly epidemic sweeping through our communities and country right now.”
USPIS Inspector-in-Charge Philip R. Bartlett said:
“The defendants allegedly thought they could use the mail to distribute deadly narcotics, specifically carfentanil and fentanyl, for their own profit, without concern for the communities they destroy. Their customers allegedly placed orders on the Dark Web, and encrypted email. As alleged, the defendants were counting on the anonymity of the Dark Web to conceal their crimes. Despite their best attempts at hiding their crimes, today they learned the price for using the mail to ship drugs – JUSTICE and possibly JAIL.”
NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill said:
“As long as individuals – wherever they operate – are involved in narcotics trafficking, the NYPD and our partners will relentlessly work to stop the threat to public safety. Anyone who deals in illegal opioids should understand that the nation’s best investigators will stop at nothing to keep our community safe. I commend our colleagues at the Southern District of New York, and the investigators of the New York Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Joint Organized Crime Task Force for their work in this investigation.”
From at least in or about November 2015 through the present, CASTRO and FERNANDEZ conspired to distribute carfentanil, fentanyl, and phenyl fentanyl (an analogue of fentanyl). For most of this period, the conspiracy dealt drugs over the dark web, using the monikers “Chemsusa,” “Chems_usa,” and “Chemical_usa.” CASTRO was an operator of these online monikers and was paid in bitcoin. On one dark web marketplace, Dream Market, “Chemsusa” boasted that it had completed more than 3200 transactions on other dark web markets, including more than 1,800 on AlphaBay. The customer feedback for “Chemsusa” included, “Extremely potent and definitely the real Carf,” as well as “The Carfent is unbelievably well synthesized, keep up the amazing work.”
Darknet Market Activity
In June 2018, “Chems_usa” informed its customers that it was moving its business off dark net marketplaces and would accept purchase requests for narcotics only via encrypted email. To learn the off-market email address, “Chems_usa” required willing customers to pay a fee. An undercover law enforcement officer paid this fee, obtained the encrypted email address, and placed orders with CASTRO. CASTRO’s co-conspirator, FERNANDEZ, shipped narcotics on behalf of the conspiracy, including from New York City. From November 2018 to the present, at least 94 packages have been linked to this conspiracy; several of them have tested positive for carfentanil or fentanyl. All of these packages were shipped using USPS Priority Mail envelopes, and for most of them, the sender’s purported return address was a law office or a governmental entity.
CASTRO also laundered his narcotics proceeds, including by funneling more than approximately $1.77 million through bitcoin wallets of his, and by buying approximately 100 quadrillion Zimbabwe bank notes, among other valuables, which were shipped to his residence.
RICHARD CASTRO, 36, of Windermere, Florida, and LUIS FERNANDEZ, 41, of the Bronx, New York, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute three controlled substances – carfentanil, phenyl fentanyl, and fentanyl – as well as one count of distributing these controlled substances via the Internet. Each of these counts carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison. CASTRO is also charged with one count of laundering narcotics proceeds, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The statutory maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Berman praised the FBI, USPIS, and NYPD for their outstanding work on the investigation. Mr. Berman also thanked the Internal Revenue Service and the Orange County, Florida Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in this investigation. He added that the investigation is continuing.