Two L.A. County Crews Who Allegedly Used Darknet to Traffic Narcotics Face Federal Criminal Conspiracy Charges

            LOS ANGELES – Members of two alleged Los Angeles County crime rings have been charged in separate federal criminal cases alleging they conspired to use the Darknet to illicitly and secretly sell methamphetamine and other illegal narcotics nationwide, including one shipment of heroin in a stuffed animal that led to the fatal overdose of a customer in Tennessee.

In a nine-count indictment returned last week, five members of the Los Angeles-based “Drugpharmacist” drug trafficking organization, named for the moniker it used on the Darknet marketplaces Wall Street Market and Dream, have been charged with, among other things, conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and crack cocaine. The defendants, all of them from Lancaster, are:

·         Jerrell Eugene Anderson, 28;

·         Christopher Carion Van Holton, 31;

·         Adan Sepulveda, 26;

·         Kenneth Lashawn Hadley, 31; and

·         Jackie Walter Burns, 20

All five defendants were arrested on a criminal complaint earlier this month and are out on bond. Their arraignments are expected in the coming weeks.

According to an affidavit filed with a criminal complaint in the case, the defendants sold controlled substances to Drugpharmacist customers via the Darknet, and distributed them inside stuffed animals through the United States Postal Service. One shipment of heroin on August 7, 2018 resulted in the fatal overdose of a victim in Knoxville, Tennessee. An investigation into the organization confirmed that the ring was using stash houses in the San Fernando Valley to package drugs for delivery to customers throughout the United States. If convicted on all counts, each defendant faces a statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison.

            In a separate case, three members of the Darknet vendor “Aeirla” have agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. The group conducted 2,289 sales of methamphetamine and cocaine as of November 28, 2018, according to an affidavit filed with the case’s criminal complaint. Undercover federal agents conducted 26 purchases of methamphetamine from Aeirla between March 2017 and December 2018, the affidavit states. The defendants charged are:

·         Anh Pham, 49, of Hawaiian Gardens,

·         Joseph Michael Gifford, 43, of La Crescenta; and

·         Carlos Miguel Gallardo, 59, of Hawaiian Gardens

Pham allegedly sold pound quantities of methamphetamine on the Darknet while Gifford and Gallardo packaged them in toys, a beach ball, and boxes of Christmas cards and chocolates, and shipped them to customers nationwide, including to a customer in Pittsburgh who in reality was an undercover agent, court papers state. Pham and Gallardo are in custody while Gifford, who signed a plea agreement today, is free on bond. The statutory maximum sentence each defendant faces is life in federal prison. Gifford also faces a narcotics distribution charge in a separate criminal case brought by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

“Law enforcement continues to shine a spotlight on criminals who use the Darknet,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “My office will continue to target drug peddlers who use increasingly sophisticated means in their misguided notion they can avoid detection.”

An indictment and a criminal complaint contain allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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