A Euclid, Ohio, man pleaded guilty to distribution of fentanyl that he ordered from China and sold domestically, according to U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady at Pittsburgh.
Antoin Austin, 28, also allegedly sold the drug to a undercover FBI agent in Pittsburgh.
Austin is scheduled be sentenced Nov. 5.
Austin used the online name “DARKKING22” on the dark web. DARKKING22 advertised some of the following items for sale this year: “Fentanyl Pure HCL, Methozymethylfentanyl ’30490′, molly, pure lofentanil, and MMAF New Product.” Methozymethylfentanyl, pure lofentanil, and MMAF New Product are known to be various types of fentanyl analogues, according to court documents.
Undercover federal agents made multiple purchases of opioids from DARKKING22 on the Dark Web in 2018. The purchases were made using bitcoins, and the shipments indicated the packages carrying the drugs originated in the Cleveland area. The initial undercover purchase from Austin occurred in March of 2018, when undercover FBI special agents based the Pittsburgh area purchased and received cyclopropyl fentanyl, a Schedule I controlled substance, from Austin.
According to court documents, the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspectors tracked the March shipment of fentanyl from DARKKING22 to the U.S. Post Office in Wickliffe, Ohio. They observed Austin travel from his home in Euclid to the Wickliffe Post Office, where he attempted to mail packages using false return addresses. These packages were intercepted by agents and were found to contain fentanyl consistent with the undercover purchases.
In October 2017, federal agents also seized a package shipped from a known Chinese fentanyl distributor to Austin that contained 10 grams of fentanyl.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh charged Austin with distribution of fentanyl in July 2018, and that case was transferred to the Northern District of Ohio and consolidated with the Ohio distribution case for purposes of Austin’s guilty plea and upcoming sentencing.
“This defendant ordered thousands of deadly doses of fentanyl from China, brought it to a residential neighborhood in Euclid and then mailed the dangerous drugs all over Ohio and across the country,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said. “Drug traffickers like this have enriched themselves while causing so much pain in our community.”
“DARKKING22 is one of the first defendants in the country to be investigated, charged and convicted since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of the Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) initiative in Pittsburgh earlier this year,” U.S. Attorney Brady said. “Through our office’s expertise in opioids and cybercrime, we are disrupting illegal opioid sales on the Darknet by dismantling these marketplaces and criminal enterprises.”
“Online drug trafficking takes the risk out of dealing drugs face-to-face,” FBI-Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Robert Jones said. “But we want to send a clear message to those buying and selling drugs on the Darknet. You are not anonymous, and we will find you. Shutting down this online illegal activity is a coordinated effort, and all of our law enforcement partners are committed to stopping the opioid epidemic.”