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Two from Ohio arrested during national undercover operation targeting darknet vendors

WASHINGTON (WCMH) -- Two people from Ohio were among 35 suspects arrested during a federal national undercover operation targeting darknet vendors.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, multiple federal agencies coordinated a nationwide investigation of over 65 targets, that lead to the arrest and impending prosecution of more than 35 Darknet vendors.

The operation, which culminated in four weeks of more than 100 enforcement actions around the country, resulted in the following:

  • Federal arrests of more than 35 Darknet vendors who engaged in tens of thousands of sales of illicit goods;
  • Execution of 70 search warrants, resulting in the seizure of massive amounts of illegal narcotics, including 333 bottles of liquid synthetic opioids, over 100,000 tramadol pills, 100 grams of fentanyl, more than 24 kilograms of Xanax, and additional seizures of Oxycodone, MDMA, cocaine, LSD, marijuana, and a psychedelic mushroom grow found in a residence;
  • Seizure of more than 100 firearms, including handguns, assault rifles, and a grenade launcher;
  • Seizure of five vehicles that were purchased with illicit proceeds and/or used to facilitate criminal activity;
  • Seizure of more than $3.6 million in U.S. currency and gold bars;
  • Seizure of nearly 2,000 Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies, with an approximate value of more than $20 million;
  • Confiscation of 15 pill presses, which are used to create illegal synthetic opioids; and
  • Seizure of Bitcoin mining devices, computer equipment, and vacuum sealers.

Among those arrested included Nicholas J. Powell, 32, and Michael Gonzalez, 27, former and current residents of Parma, Ohio.

Both were charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and laundering money using the dark web.  

The complaint alleges that Powell used various monikers on Darknet marketplaces as part of his criminal scheme, including “TheSource,” “BonnienClyde,” BnC,” “BCPHARMA,” and “Money TS.”  The conspiracy operated on multiple Darknet marketplaces, including Silk Road 2, AlphaBay, and HANSA.  

The conspiracy involved distributing Xanax, steroids, marijuana and other drugs across the country using these and other Darknet monikers.  Powell and Gonzalez would then launder the funds as cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Etherium, and Komodo through individuals specializing in money laundering on Darknet marketplaces, according to law enforcement.

At the time of arrest, law enforcement had already seized approximately $437,000 in cryptocurrencies from Powell. 

More than 50 Darknet vendor accounts were identified and attributed to the real individuals selling illicit goods on Darknet market sites such as Silk Road, AlphaBay, Hansa, Dream, and others. 


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