A darknet club drug kingpin – who sold ecstasy, ketamine and generic Xanax on a hard-to-reach internet market – will spend eight years behind bars and pay more than $2 million in Bitcoin in the first federal confiscation of its kind in Massachusetts.
“This sentence sends a clear message to dark web criminals: the federal government is entering this space. We will find you and you will be held accountable,” Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said in a statement. “Thanks to the incredible work of our law enforcement colleagues, there is one less cybercriminal lurking in the shadows.”
Binh Thanh Le, 25, from Brockton, was just 22 when he launched the “EastSideHigh” storefront on the illegal Wall Street Market on the darknet. It’s a part of the internet inaccessible by standard web searching that requires special software – the Tor, originally called The Onion Router, an encrypted and anonymized internet relay network – to access it.
The operation was a resounding success for some time. The had brought in 59 Bitcoins – a cryptocurrency advertised for its pseudonymous operations that criminals love for its easier use in illicit transactions – which, as of 3 p.m. Saturday, was worth around $2.3 million, well above the $200,000 it was worth when the feds seized access to Le’s Bitcoin e-wallet during a March 2019 currency exchange transaction at a hotel in Norwood. He also had $114,680 in cash and an additional $42,390 from the sale of his gray 2018 BMW M3, a performance sedan that originally retailed from $66,500.
Le was ordered to give up all of that, in addition to his eight years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release, Judge Rya Zobel ordered in federal court in Boston on Thursday.
Le was charged in June 2019 along with two other Brockton men, Steven McCall and Allante Pires — who federal authorities say were driving a black Mercedes S550, which retailed in 2017 for nearly $97,000, while he worked in the company – for conspiracy to manufacture and distribute the drugs. Authorities seized more than 20 kilograms – or 44 pounds – of ecstasy, more than 7 kilograms – or 15.4 pounds – of ketamine and more than 10,000 generic Xanax tablets during the investigation, according to prosecutors. The others pleaded not guilty to the charges.
It wasn’t a lack of high-tech prowess that saw the end of Le’s empire, but the simple fact that physical substances like drugs still have to pass through the low-tech mail system to reach their destination. . But the drug entrepreneur, who manufactured and distributed the drugs from a rented office in Stoughton, got creative even on that front, using the fictitious names ‘Dajour Cox’ and ‘Duane Freeman’ as recipients. of the mix of post office boxes its operation used in the area.
“Cox” and “Freeman” received packages from mundane businesses like “Robins Office Supply” of Irving, Texas, that actually had drugs, according to the complaint affidavit filed by a postal inspector. Federal agents also seized packages destined for monitored addresses and names from foreign distributors in the Netherlands, Belgium and Canada.
Perhaps most intriguing were the packages marked “Lego box for kids,” which indeed contained a Lego box, according to the court document, but replaced the colored plastic bricks with vacuum-packed bags containing a field-tested powder. for MDMA, the drug known as ecstasy or molly.