A trio of alleged drug sellers peddling counterfeit Xanax on the dark web in exchange for cryptocurrency were charged on Tuesday, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said.
Investigators recovered about 420,000 counterfeit pills worth about $3 million as well as several other items, including 500 glassines of heroin laced with fentanyl, and a cookbook with recipes for fake drugs, Vance said.
"It appears that this is a self-contained entrepreneurial group. But I think what we see today is a pretty large-scale … independent group of drug [sellers] who finally got a little bit over their head and got caught," Vance said.
Vance said the alleged dealers, Chester Anderson, 44, and co-conspirators Jarrette Codd, 41, and Ronald Maccarty, 51, would sell their merchandise on a dark web marketplace and laundered $2.3 million in cryptocurrency by using preloaded debit cards and withdrawing cash from ATMs in Manhattan and New Jersey. The alleged dealers, all New Jersey residents, were shipping drugs to 43 different states starting in 2016, he said.
In order to catch the dealers, investigators from the district attorney's office purchased about 10,000 alprazolam (commonly known as Xanax) tablets as well as GHB and ketamine from their dark web store, officials said.
"Some of the work that you see in this case is old school but much of the work is … just a rapidly changing environment in which we have to work," Vance said, adding: "You can't fight crime anymore if you're just fighting crime the old way."
All three suspects were charged on Tuesday with first-degree money laundering and two counts each of conspiracy. In addition, Anderson was also charged with five counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance and four counts of identity theft.
All three defendants were awaiting arraignment on Tuesday afternoon, Vance said.