Operation Targets Dark Web Drug Buyers

A joint law enforcement operation on March 28, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio, was one of dozens around the country that week targeting drug traffickers and end users who buy illegal narcotics like fentanyl on the dark web.

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Eric Yingling, special agent, Pittsburgh Division: If individual comes in here and wants to, let’s say, be interested in drugs, there are 58,240 listings currently for narcotics on this site, and they are broken down by category. So, if you were an individual and you were here and you were particularly interested in, let’s say, a particular type of opioid...

Special Agent Chris Brest: Drug trafficking is changing. The environment is moving from a real-world drug trafficking to more of a virtual realm in that the individuals involved in buying and selling are able to go online through the Darknet and anonymously, or almost completely anonymously, buy and sell drugs to avoid law enforcement, to avoid face-to-face exposure with other drug dealers and other people. 

Yingling: So, this week around the country, we’re executing Operation Disarray. The FBI Headquarters has sent out information and is working in coordination with field offices all over the country. We’re working with all our federal partners here involved as well, to go out and both encounter customers of dark web marketplaces, dark web narcotics traffickers, as well as, sort of, get the word out on the dangers of potentially what they’re purchasing.

Special Agent: You’ll see from the picture on the back of the ops plan, it is on the corner. So, there’s two doors on the house… 

Yingling: This morning, we’ve come out to execute two federal search warrants and an arrest warrant on an individual that’s a dark web narcotics trafficker. In particular, this trafficker is specializing in opioid derivative of fentanyl. And we meet up here to do a pre-op briefing, talk up everybody’s last-minute changes, what their assigned duties are, make sure we’re all on the same page to make sure it all goes smoothly and it’s done safely.

Special Agent: FBI, show your hands. Come out.

Yingling: So, we had successfully executed the search warrant and the searches themselves resulted in the seizure of both narcotics, a firearm, and numerous digital devices which may have been used to set up and facilitate this activity online. The individual was transported, of course, to the U.S. Marshals and to the federal courthouse to appear before a judge. The end goal is, of course, to remind the end user, the end purchaser, both of the dangers of the dark web marketplace and the fact that law enforcement is very cognizant of this activity. And we’re going to be continuing to stay on top of it.  

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