Their "storefront" operated on the dark web, but their undoing was a bunch of New York City ATMs, say prosecutors. Three New Jersey men have been charged in what prosecutors describe as a $2.3 million pill operation that sold counterfeit Xanax and other drugs to customers in 43 states. "When our office received reports of suspicious activity at ATMs in New York and New Jersey, our talented investigators followed the money" and uncovered the scheme, said District Attorney Cyrus Vance on Tuesday. Authorities allege Chester Anderson, 44; Jarrette Codd, 41; and Ronald MacCarty, 51; sold drugs through a dark web shopping site called "Dream Market," which NJ.com describes as something that resembles Amazon, "except you need a Tor browser to get there, and cryptocurrency to pay with." More:
- Investigators went undercover and used cryptocurrency to buy about 10,000 pills, then obtained search warrants for the men's homes and cars. They say their searches turned up at least 420,000 fake Xanax tablets, some kept in big orange buckets, plus fentanyl-laced heroin, meth, ketamine, the date-rape drug GHB, and more. Prosecutors estimate the street value of the counterfeit Xanax is $3 million.
- They're calling it a historic bust: the biggest pill seizure ever in New Jersey, and the first time New York prosecutors have dismantled a dark web storefront.
- Where the ATMs came in: The men allegedly laundered some $2.3 million in cryptocurrency by using it to load pre-paid debit cards, which they then used to get cash from ATMs. The New York Times reports Vance's office got a tip in 2017, when it was told that in addition to huge amounts being withdrawn around the city, some transactions were done at a teller machine capable of converting cryptocurrency to cash. A two-year investigation followed.
- Prosecutors allege Anderson is the ringleader and say his Asbury Park, NJ, cellphone store doubled as a drug factory outfitted with two industrial power mixers and four pill presses each capable of pumping out 16,000 pills per hour. They allege Anderson tried to conceal his activity using rental cars, hotels, and a GPS jamming device.
- NBC News reports the men allegedly used the addresses of New York City law offices and real estate firms as the return addresses on their shipments.
- The men face charges of conspiracy and money laundering; Anderson was also charged with drug trafficking and identity theft. They have all pleaded not guilty.
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