FBI and Partners Target Darknet Opioid Traffickers

Operation SaboTor, a multi-agency law enforcement action between January and March 2019 that targeted opioid sales on the Darknet, included this search of a vehicle and a residence in California. The search was the result of an eight-month investigation that led to five arrests.

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Maggie Blanton, special agent, FBI Hi-Tech Organized Crime Unit: On Darknet marketplaces, they offer illicit goods such as drugs, guns, hacked bank accounts, and credit card information.

A Darknet drug vendor is a little bit different than an actual street-corner dealer because of the reach that they have. They have access to hundreds of thousands of buyers at a time from across the country, as well as internationally. So just by taking down one Darknet drug vendor, you could have the same effect as taking down a traditional mid-level size drug trafficking organization.

Title: The FBI manages a Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) team that brings together a variety of federal agencies to disrupt illicit opioid sales online.

Title: A coordinated sweep that ended this month called Operation SaboTor targeted Darknet drug buyers and sellers around the world.

Blanton: J-CODE led the effort of Operation SaboTor by collectively working together to create leads for the field. And those leads were sent out to all of our domestic partners, in which they work together to go out and interview Darknet drug users as well as effect arrests on drug traffickers.

J-CODE brings together experts from the DEA, the Postal Inspection Service, Homeland Security Investigations, as well as the Department of Defense and the Customs and Border Protection, along with the FBI.

People don't always get what they think they're ordering when they're ordering on the Darknet. Drug traffickers are always looking for ways to cut costs, and sometimes a way to cut cost is lacing their product with a deadly synthetic opioid called fentanyl.

Postal Inspector: It’s obviously a narcotics case going through the mail. So we’re looking for, first and foremost, any narcotics. Secondly, as far as any kind of packaging materials—anything with Postal, USPS on it, UPS, FedEx, anything like that. Money orders, checks, anything that resembles any type of financial trade. We’re also looking for anything with Bitcoin.

Special Agent: FBI search warrant.

Blanton: During Operation SaboTor, our law enforcement partners spoke with over 100 Darknet drug buyers. Approximately 61 Darknet drug traffickers were arrested, 51 firearms were seized, almost 300 kilograms of drugs, and over $7 million in cash and cryptocurrency were seized.

Operation SaboTor had federal agents from across all of our federal partners fan out across the country. This is a new and evolving threat. And we found that no one federal agency can do it alone. It’s a new way for the government to work together to combat the threat.

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