A 27-year-old from Hobart, Wisconsin, was sentenced to 50 months in prison for selling a wide variety of drugs on at least six darkweb marketplaces. The darkweb vendor, according to the sentencing judge, had committed a “crime of significant magnitude.”
Senior U.S. District Judge William C. Griesbach sentenced Christopher Bania, 27, of Hobart, Wisconsin, to 50 months in prison for possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. The court ordered also ordered the forfeiture of more than $1.5 million in cryptocurrency and cash. Judge Griesbach called Bania’s operation a “money making enterprise.”
Bania had vendor accounts on Dream Market, Zion, Wall Street, Hansa, TradeRoute, and AlphaBay, according to United States Attorney Matthew D. Krueger.
The investigation into Bania involved undercover purchases from an account controlled by the United States Postal Inspection Service, package seizures by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Brown County Drug Task Force. As part of the investigation, law enforcement officers applied for and received no less than 15 warrants, according to Bania’s attorney.
On February 21, 2019, Customs intercepted two packages of drugs. Both contained roughly 125 grams of MDMA and had the same destination in Wisconsin. One of the packages contained an additional 15 grams of fentanyl. One day later, the Brown County Drug Task Force took custody of the packages and tested samples of the seized substances.
Seven days later, on February 28, Special Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Investigators with the Brown County Drug Task Force, Special Agents from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, and local LEOs executed a search warrant at Bania’s house. They found Bania inside as well as the evidence to support a four-count indictment for possession with intent to distribute controlled substances; maintaining a residence for the purpose of drug distribution; unlawful importation of controlled substances into the United States; and money laundering.
Some of the most important non-drug evidence seized during the raid:
- Multiple “drug ledger” notebooks detailing BANIA’s Bitcoin transactions with excerpts which included references to the following controlled substances:
- “Bolivian Cocaine”
- Various strains of marijuana including “00 Kush,” “Midnight Dream,” and “Mixed Weed”
- These ledgers also contained evidence reflecting that Bania was sourcing product via the darkweb and distributing the same substances through his own vendor accounts;
- Multiple United States Postal Service shipping receipts, shipping labels, packaging material, and stamps indicating Bania was receiving controlled substances and distributing to others using Bitcoin.
- 2,777.22 grams marijuana;
- 324.31 grams MDMA;
- 128.14 grams of unknown material;
- 77.46 grams of wax;
- 7.02 grams of amphetamine;
- 6.77 grams of cocaine;
- 0.61 grams LSD;
- 0.2 grams of heroin;
- Five vials of liquid Testosterone Enanthate;
- Five vials of Nandrolone Decanoate;
- One vial of Ketamine;
- 79 Carisoprodol pills;
- 43 Modafinil pills;
- 17 pieces of Alprazolam (Xanax) pills.
- One nearly full bag of 10,000 empty yellow gelatin capsules;
- One bag of 10,000 empty blue gelatin capsules;
- Approximately 1/8 full bag of 10,000 red gelatin capsules;
- One full bag of 10,000 red gelatin capsules;
- Multiple glass pipes with burnt residue;
- Multiple grinders and ceramic pipes;
- $50,332.00 of US currency.
Investigators analyzed Bania’s log books and calculated the total weight of the drugs Bania had in his possession during his operation. The logs contained records of the purchase and subsequent redistribution of more than 110 pounds of marijuana and more than 10 pounds of MDMA. Investigators even knew about drugs Bania had stopped selling long before the raid.
A section of Bania’s plea agreement describes part of his shipping process that could help identify Bania’s vendor account:
Bania would repackage and sell the drugs he purchased to dark web purchasers all over the country. He packed the drugs in matchbooks and attached his own “business label” thanking the customer for their purchase and keeping his business “on fire.”
It was soon discovered that postal inspectors in New Jersey had taken over a dark web account of a cooperating defendant in 2018 and made purchases from Bania, The defendant was interviewed by law enforcement and acknowledged his possession and distribution of the above-referenced controlled substances via the “dark web” which resulted in substantial profits.
As a part of his sentence, Bania was ordered to forfeit (pdf) more than $1.5 million in cash and cryptocurrency. Bania stored his coins in Electrum, a Copay wallet, a Blockchain.com wallet, a Coinbase account, a Circle wallet, and a LocalBitcoins wallet.