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Huge ministry of justice operation nabs illegal Darknet suppliers

File photo.

(REUTERS/Kacper Pempel )

The Ministry of Justice together with other agencies, said a long campaign that nabbed more than 35 Darknet vendors trade in illegal goods.

The operation involved an agent posing as a money launderer on the Darknet market sites that have to do with virtual currency, the u.s. department of justice said in an announcement this week. The Darknet, or Dark Web, networks of coded, often in the shade, sites are not indexed by well known search engines.

“We seized their weapons, their drugs and $23.6 million of their loot. This nationwide enforcement effort will reduce the supply of deadly drugs, such as fentanyl, that are the killing of an unprecedented number of Americans,” Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement.

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This was the first nationwide undercover operation aimed at suppliers of the trade in illicit goods on the Darknet, the ministry of justice added.

The operation, which targeted Darknet vendors “that are in the tens of thousands of the sale of illegal goods,” led to the seizure of:

– Illegal drugs, including 333 bottles of liquid synthetic opioids, more than 100,000 tramadol pills, 100 grams of fentanyl, more than 24 kilos of Xanax, Oxycodone, MDMA, cocaine, LSD and marijuana.

– More than 100 weapons, including guns and a grenade launcher.

– More than $3.6 million in US currency and gold bars.

– Approximately 2,000 Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies, with a value of more than $20 million.

Pill presses, used to make illegal synthetic opioids.

– Bitcoin mining devices, computer equipment, and vacuum seal.

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The list of those to be arrested are:

– Jian Qu, 30; Raymond Weng, 24; and Kai Wu, 22, all of Queens, New York. Also: Dimitri Tseperkas, 22 and Cihad Akkaya, 22, Middle Island and Port Jefferson, New York.

Researchers monitoring the Darknet found accounts used by the conspirators. They were accused of participating in a conspiracy to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. Tseperkas and Akkaya were also charged with firearms violations.

Agents also recovered approximately $400,000 in U.S. currency, 12 kilograms of suspected Xanax pills and more than half a kilo of suspected ecstasy.

– Antonio Tirado, 26, and Jeffrey Morales, 32, of the Bronx, New York, were charged with distribution and possession with intent to distribute drugs, including cocaine, LSD, marijuana, and hash oil.

They were involved in a Darknet market vendor operating under the name “Trapgod,” the u.s. department of justice said.

Nicholas J. Powell, 32, and Michael Gonzalez, 27, were accused of conspiracy to distribute drugs and money laundering using the dark web.

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Powell allegedly “used different monikers on Darknet marketplaces as part of his criminal scheme … [and] operated on several Darknet marketplaces,” the u.s. department of justice said. When arrested, the enforcement of the law had already seized approximately $437,000 in cryptocurrencies of Powell, the u.s. department of justice added.

Special Agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations New York Field Division coordinated with the U. S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in the operation.

The U.S. Secret Service, the U. S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration were involved.

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