LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Six people are facing federal charges this week after a grand jury indictment alleged they ran a drug distribution operation on the “dark web” worth millions of dollars.
The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday announced William James Farber, aka Bill Danzerian, 37, of Los Angeles, and Bryan Anthony Lemons, 29, of Los Angeles, were charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to launder money.
Richard Thomas Martinsen, 29, of Studio City; Michael Angelo Palma, 22, of Los Angeles; Michele Pickerell, 47, of Altadena; and Faysal Mustafa Alkhayat, 31, of Woodland Hills, were also charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substances.
The group operated under the name PureFireMeds and “sold narcotics including marijuana, cocaine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, psilocybin, MDMA (Ecstasy), LSD, Xanax, and ketamine on dark web marketplaces, including Silk Road and Pandora,” according the DOJ statement. When Silk Road was shut down in 2013, the group continued their operation under the name HumboldtFarms on the dark web marketplace AlphaBay until May 2017.
The investigation into the distribution network revealed more than 78,000 orders of marijuana were processed just on AlphaBay and sent all around the U.S. and the world. This four-year operation netted the group more that $7 million in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, which they would exchange for cash subsequently deposited in banks in amounts below $10,000, in order to avoid having to report the money to the federal government.
The defendants allegedly assembled and mailed roughly 1,000 drug packages a day at Michele Pickerell’s home in La Viña, a 271-home gated community in Altadena, the Los Angeles Times reports.
If convicted, all of the defendants face a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine.
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