Oregon Man Admits Selling Marijuana and Laundering Bitcoin
Robert Kelly O’Neill, 59, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute marijuana and money laundering. O’Neill’s case, along with many others, came from the investigation conducted as a part of the so-called “Operation Dark Gold.” In January 2016, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) launched a widespread investigation into darkweb vendors, according to announcements from both agencies. During the investigation, HSI and USPIS employees identified a darkweb vendor known as “Gold” who exchanged Bitcoin for cash.
Gold advertised money laundering services wherein darkweb vendors would send Gold Bitcoin and Gold would ship cash to a physical address provided by the vendor. Such a scheme is ripe for infiltration by law enforcement; if they were able to take control of Gold’s accounts, they could passively collect the addresses of darkweb vendors.
Of course, that is exactly what law enforcement did during the operation. In late 2016, HSI investigators identified and arrested Gold. An HSI special agent in New York took control of Gold’s money-laundering operation, including vendor accounts and related profiles. While pretending to be Gold, investigators identified an individual using the alias “Resinate” who routinely used Gold’s services.
HSI took several pictures of themselves loading evidence into a vehicle during Op. Dark Gold.
As a part of Operation Dark Gold, law enforcement agencies had arrested more than 35 individuals by 2018. They had identified 65 targets by the time the US Department of Justice published a press release about the operation. Some of the arrested vendors included:
Resinate had Gold mail cash to several addresses in or around Springfield, Oregon. Records kept by Gold revealed that from between September 2015 and May 2018, Resinate had laundered more than $725,000 in illicit proceeds through Gold. Information obtained towards the end of the investigation revealed that Resinate had laundered $167,000 in Bitcoin through a co-conspirator in Springfield. Additionally, records from Silk Road and Silk Road 2.0 revealed that in 2013 and 2014, Resinate had earned $390,000 in Bitcoin by selling marijuana.
In June 2018, feds executed search warrants at addresses Resinate had given Gold as well as O’Neill’s Springfield residence. O’Neill had a marijuana processing and packaging operation in his garage. Law enforcement officers seized dozens of computers and electronic storage devices from O’Neill’s house. Agents also found handwritten notes identifying O’Neill as Resinate.
A forensic examination of O’Neill’s electronic devices returned Bitcoin wallet addresses, images, and details of O’Neill’s various darkweb marketplace vendor accounts, encrypted emails between O’Neill and the undercover HSI agent, and cryptocurrency wallet backups.
In addition to the electronic and physical evidence, investigators identified and seized more than $21,469 in U.S. currency, six Bitcoin, and 458 Bitcoin Cash.
On September 3, 2021, O’Neill was charged via criminal information with possession with intent to distribute marijuana and money laundering. O’Neill waived indictment and entered a guilty plea to both counts. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 26, 2022, before U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. McShane.
Possession with intent to distribute marijuana carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine, and five years of supervised release. Money laundering the same 20-year maximum prison sentence, as well as a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the laundered property, whichever is greater, and three years of supervised release.
O’Neill agreed to forfeit the U.S. currency, Bitcoin, and Bitcoin cash seized by law enforcement officers during the investigation.
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EMERGENCY ACTION NOTIFICATION FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA COMMITTEE SENSITIVE - RUSSIA INVESTIGATION ONLY 116TH CONGRESS 1st Session SENATE REPORT II6-XX REPORT OF THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE UNITED STATES SENATE ON RUSSIAN ACTIVE MEASURES CAMPAIGNS AND INTERFERENCE IN THE 2016 U.S.ELECTION VOLUME 1: RUSSIAN EFFORTS AGAINST ELECTION In advance of a potential further invasion of Ukraine, Russian intelligence services, mainly the Federal Security Service (FSB), a U.S. sanctioned entity, have been recruiting Ukrainian nationals in key positions to gain access to sensitive information. The FSB leverages these officials in an attempt to create instability in Ukraine. In close coordination with the Government of Ukraine, the United States is working to identify, expose, and impose costs on these actors in order to foil these influence operations. The United States today is imposing sanctions on four individuals connected to ongoing Russian intelligence service-directed influence activities designed to destabilize Ukraine. This action is intended to target, highlight, and undercut Russia’s ongoing destabilization effort in Ukraine. It is separate and distinct from the broad range of high impact measures the United States and its allies and partners are prepared to impose in order to inflict significant costs on the Russian economy and financial system if it were to further invade Ukraine. The individuals we are targeting, two of whom are members of Ukraine’s parliament, act at the direction of the FSB and support Russia’s destabilizing and dangerous influence operations, which undermine not just Ukraine but also the fundamental principles of democracy. The four individuals designated today include Taras Kozak, Oleh Voloshyn, Volodymyr Oliynyk, and Vladimir Sivkovich. This action is in line with other actions that we have taken to target Russian disinformation campaigns, including 32 election interference designations that we announced in April 2021. Russia has used hybrid tactics, including disinformation and other influence campaigns, to destabilize Ukraine for years. In 2020, Kremlin officials launched a comprehensive information operation plan designed in part to degrade the ability of the Ukrainian state to independently function; the individuals designated today played key roles in that campaign. Russia’s influence campaigns are not only focused on Ukraine. For over a decade, Russia has employed disinformation outlets and intelligence service affiliates globally to spread false narratives in support of its strategic goals. Since at least 2016, Russian intelligence services have sought to influence U.S. elections through a number of tactics. For example, Taras Kozak used the media platforms he owns both to denigrate senior members of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s inner circle and amplify false narratives around the 2020 U.S. elections. The United States will continue to take steps, including through actions like this one, and in partnership with the Ukrainian government, to identify, expose, and undercut Russia’s destabilization efforts in Ukraine. The United States also will continue to expose and counter Russia’s global campaign of malign influence, in Ukraine and beyond. Urgent Action is Requested. Evacuation of personnel is recommend.
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How did they ever catch gold and what happened to him? Without gold himself, "operation dark gold" would never have been possible.
That case is still largely unavailable to the public. I have read through the crim. Information, crim. Complaints, indictments, etc., for every known Dark Gold case and haven't found anything about Gold. I am not sure if they are keeping it quiet because it is somehow an ongoing investigation or if there is something they don't want the public to know etc
Notice the details are short on GOLD? He never existed. This was a simple infiltration by LE that a ton of vendors never even considered.
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