MI: Leader Of Dark Web Drug Trafficking Ring Pleads Guilty To Conspiring To Distribute Illicit And Counterfeit Drugs From A Clandestine Drug Lab In A Detroit Residence

Victor Hernandez pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute millions of illicit and counterfeit pills, United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison announced.

Ison was joined in the announcement by acting Special Agent in Charge Shawn Gibson, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Detroit field office and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Orville O. Greene.

Victor Hernandez, 30, of Detroit, admitted his involvement in a conspiracy to distribute illicit substances, a conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, his distribution of counterfeit pills, and the use of firearms in furtherance of the crime.

During the course of the months-long investigation, agents were able to identify that a dark web vendor site was being operated out of the Detroit, Michigan, area.  The dark web marketplace vendor went by the moniker of “opiateconnect.”  Agents worked to determine the location being used as the distribution hub for illicit scheduled drugs to include cocaine, and various counterfeit drugs.  The counterfeit drugs, made to looks like alprazolam, commonly referred to as Xanax, were in fact uncontrolled research chemicals not scheduled for human consumption.    

Agents also learned that “opiateconnect” was being operated from a residence in Detroit, Michigan.  A subsequent search warrant revealed a clandestine drug lab. The search resulted in the seizure of approximately 1,000,000 dollars in cryptocurrency, in excess of 300,000 U.S. Dollars, multiple firearms, an industrial size pill press, industrial mixer, controlled substances including cocaine, and counterfeit drugs.

Hernandez pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to four counts: (1) conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, which carries a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years and a maximum of 40 years; (2) conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years; (3) dispensing a counterfeit drug, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years; and (4) possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, which carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of five years.  In total, Hernandez is facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years.

United States Attorney Dawn Ison said, “This guilty plea is the culmination of months of collaboration between state and federal law enforcement agencies. Counterfeit pills pose a unique danger to this community, especially ones that have the appearance of a drug that is so regularly prescribed.  We will continue to investigate and prosecute instances where those counterfeit pills are being manufactured illegally in our district to keep our community safe.”

“This plea is not just a win for law enforcement, but a win for our Detroit community,” said HSI Detroit acting Special Agent in Charge Shawn Gibson. “Whether on the dark web or on a street corner, drug traffickers seek to poison our communities. We will remain steadfast in our law enforcement partnerships to dismantle these networks wherever we find them.”

“The DEA, in collaboration with HSI, continues our commitment to safeguard communities from individuals who sell fake pills and other illicit substances,” said DEA Detroit Special Agent in Charge Orville O. Greene.  “This case proves that there is no place to hide in the dark web when it comes to law enforcement’s efforts to protect the people we serve.”

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

The investigation was conducted by the Detroit Dark Web Task Force, which consists of HSI, Postal Inspection Service Office of the Inspector General (USPIS-OIG), Secret Service (USSS), IRS-CID, Michigan State Police (MSP), and CBP.  The purpose of the task force is to investigate criminal organizations, to include drug vendors, that operate within dark web marketplaces.  The task force has disrupted and dismantled numerous drug trafficking organizations through criminal arrests, and the seizure of the proceeds from criminal activity.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Jerome White.

Press Release


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