288 Arrested In Darknet Trafficking Operation: DOJ

WASHINGTON (DOJ) – Today, the Department of Justice, and its Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement (JCODE) team and international partners, announced the results of Operation SpecTor, which included 288 arrests – the most ever for any JCODE operation and nearly double that of the prior operation. Law enforcement also conducted more seizures than any prior operation, including 117 firearms, 850 kilograms of drugs that include 64 kilograms of fentanyl or fentanyl-laced narcotics, and $53.4 million in cash and virtual currencies.

Operation SpecTor was a coordinated international effort spanning three continents to disrupt fentanyl and opioid trafficking on the darknet, or dark web.

This year’s law enforcement operation was accompanied by a public awareness campaign called Operation ProtecTor aimed to promote public safety and spread awareness of resources for those struggling with substance abuse and who go through extreme lengths to obtain opioids. JCODE has worked with every FBI field office in the country to facilitate outreach to households that have purchased individual amounts of opioids from the darknet. The interagency efforts are aimed to both identify those who use anonymizing technologies to purchase illicit narcotics and direct them to available resources.

“Operation SpecTor was a coordinated international law enforcement effort, spanning three continents, to disrupt drug trafficking on the dark web and represents the most funds seized and the highest number of arrests in any coordinated international action led by the Justice Department against drug traffickers on the dark web,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Our message to criminals on the dark web is this: You can try to hide in the furthest reaches of the internet, but the Justice Department will find you and hold you accountable for your crimes.”

“The availability of dangerous substances like fentanyl on dark net marketplaces is helping to fuel the crisis that has claimed far too many American lives,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “That’s why we will continue to join forces with our law enforcement partners around the globe to attack this problem together. The FBI is proud to stand with our domestic and foreign partners as we continue to shine that light into the deepest corners of the dark net and hold those accountable who continue to peddle this poison around the world.”

“The Sinaloa and Jalisco drug cartels, and the global networks they operate are killing Americans by sending fentanyl into the United States. Their associates distribute this fentanyl into communities across America by every means possible, including the dark web,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “The DEA is committed to shutting down the fentanyl supply chain from beginning to end, and we will relentlessly pursue the associates of these cartels wherever they hide, even in the dark corners of the internet.”

“Our coalition of law enforcement authorities across three continents proves that we all do better when we work together,” said Executive Director Catherine De Bolle of Europol. “This operation sends a strong message to criminals on the dark web: international law enforcement has the means and the ability to identify and hold you accountable for your illegal activities, even on the dark web.”

“Collaboration with our law enforcement partners is key to combatting fentanyl and opioid trafficking,” said Chief Jim Lee of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). “Under the JCODE umbrella, law enforcement agencies across the globe have joined forces to take down criminals who use the darknet to buy and sell narcotics. Our team at IRS-CI plays an integral role in these investigations by following the money trail, whether it’s in fiat currency or digital assets on the blockchain.”

“The illicit movement of opioids poses a significant threat to public health and safety – whether by known transnational criminal gang members across international borders or anonymously through darknet spaces,” said Senior Official Performing the Duties of Deputy Director P.J. Lechleitner of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “Our HSI special agents, alongside federal and international partners, continue to aggressively investigate, disrupt, and dismantle networks responsible for trafficking dangerous, deadly narcotics and other contraband across global communities we are charged with protecting. We will continue to pursue bad actors engaged in these crimes to ensure they face justice, while protecting victims from these lethal substances.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service leverages our specialized knowledge of the postal system as part of sophisticated dark web investigations such as Operation SpecTor with great results,” said Chief Postal Inspector Gary R. Barksdale of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “We are committed to taking all necessary actions to combat illicit drugs in the mail. And we thank our law enforcement partners for working with us to achieve this; removing dangerous illicit substances from the mail and American communities saves lives.”

“Addressing our nation’s drug overdose crisis and epidemic of substance use disorders is an issue of great concern and remains a top public health priority for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” said Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D., of the FDA. “The FDA has undertaken strategic and impactful actions to prevent drug overdoses and reduce deaths and is committed to using all of our cyber-resources to shed light on the darkest corners of illicit medical supply chains for the health and safety of all Americans.”

Operation SpecTor resulted in over 100 federal operations and prosecutions, including:

  • On Dec. 1, 2022, Anton Peck, 29, of Boca Raton, Florida, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances, including fentanyl, methamphetamine, and heroin. According to court documents, between May 2021 and May 2022, Peck distributed narcotics from various darknet markets using the vendor profile “Syntropy.” After the transactions were carried out using cryptocurrency, Peck and co-conspirators Kevin Fusco and Vincent Banner mailed parcels containing fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine to cities around the country using the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Fusco, 35, of West Palm Beach, Florida, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for conspiring to distribute fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine. Banner, 31, of Boynton Beach, Florida, is scheduled to be sentenced on June 8 after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute fentanyl, methamphetamine, and heroin. Law enforcement recovered kilogram quantities of fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin from business and storage locations in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, and New York City. Peck possessed a list of more than 6,000 customers living across the United States. The DEA, FBI, USPS Office of Inspector General (USPS-OIG), U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida is prosecuting the case.
  • On Nov. 18, 2022, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Christopher Hampton, 36, of Cerritos, California, with heading an organization that obtained bulk fentanyl, operated labs in California that used high-speed pill presses to create fake pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine, and sold millions of pills to thousands of customers on the darknet. Hampton was named in an 11-count indictment that charges him with various narcotics and weapons offenses that could result in a sentence of life in prison. According to court documents, he was active on at least nine darknet marketplaces where he typically used the moniker “Narco710.” Hampton allegedly sold nearly $2 million worth of narcotics on two of these darknet marketplaces alone. He was arrested on Nov. 2, 2022, at which time federal law enforcement executed search warrants that led to the discovery and seizure of 450 pounds of suspected narcotics; six pill press machines, some of which were capable of producing thousands of pills per hour; and illegal firearms that included assault rifles and a machine gun. Agents later located a storage unit linked to the drug conspiracy and seized over 80 pounds of pressed fentanyl pills, eight guns, and precursor materials to press additional pills. The FBI JCODE and DEA HIDTA Tactical Diversion Squad investigated the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California is prosecuting the case.
  • On May 12, 2022, a federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment charging Holly Adams, 31, and Devlin Hosner, 33, of Indio, California, with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute fentanyl and methamphetamine, and with conspiracy to launder money. According to court documents, Adams and Hosner operated the vendor accounts “igogrrawwr” and “its4real” on the darknet marketplaces ToRReZ and Darkode, respectively, through which they sold tens of thousands of counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl in exchange for cryptocurrency. Adams and Hosner shipped these fentanyl pills to buyers throughout the United States, using the USPS, UPS, and other means of delivery. In the course of their conspiracy, Adams and Hosner finalized over 1,100 transactions of narcotics and other contraband and received more than $800,000 in cryptocurrency. Federal law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at a hotel in Riverside county where Adams and Hosner were residing and recovered more than 10,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills as well as approximately 60 grams of methamphetamine. The IRS-CI, HSI, FBI, USPIS, and USPS-OIG investigated the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California is prosecuting the case.

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DeSantis Expands Death Penalty In Florida To Cover Child Rapists, Setting Up Supreme Court Showdown

On Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that will allow for the death penalty in cases of child rape, sparking a potential Supreme Court challenge. The new law, which will come into effect on October 1st, specifies that sexual battery of a person under the age of 12 is a capital crime.

DeSantis, who is expected to jump into the 2024 race for the White House, defended the new law and stated that “in the worst of the worst cases, the only appropriate punishment is the ultimate punishment.”

The bill goes against a 2008 Supreme Court decision which prevented states from imposing the death penalty for child rape if the victim wasn’t killed.

DeSantis indicated that he is prepared to challenge this precedent in the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that it unjustly shields child rapists from the death penalty.

Critics of the law have argued that making child sexual abuse a capital punishment would discourage victims from reporting their abusers and increase the incentive for child rapists to murder their victims.

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15-Year-Old Equestrian Star Killed In Tragic Accident During Competition, Officials Say

Officials have confirmed that a young equestrian star from Florida died over the weekend in a tragic accident. Hannah Serfass, who was 15 years old, was practicing her riding and jumping skills at Fox Lea Farms in Sarasota when the incident occurred.

According to the United States Equestrian Federation, Serfass was halfway through her exercise when the horse she was riding, a 12-year-old gelding named Quaxx, awkwardly planted its foot and leaned forward, causing her to fall off. Tragically, the horse then fell on top of Serfass’s head.

Onlookers at the scene were quick to rush to her aid, and emergency crews arrived shortly afterward to take her to Sarasota Memorial Hospital. However, Serfass was pronounced dead upon arrival.

Quaxx was unharmed.

“Hannah from Webster, Fla., was a very talented up-and-coming young rider who trained with Robin Swinderman,” the US Equestrian Federation said in a statement. “She was known for her passion for horses, her natural ability, and her work ethic. The USEF, USHJA, and Fox Lea Farm team wish to extend our deepest condolences to Hannah’s family, support team, and friends. The Federation takes every accident very seriously and will be reviewing the accident thoroughly to learn what we can do to minimize risk and increase safety in equestrian sport.”

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Popular Porn Websites Pulls Out of Utah, Bans Access

As of Wednesday, some of the largest adult websites on the internet, including Pornhub, have blocked access to Utah-based users due to a new age verification law.

The law, known as SB287, which was signed by Utah Governor Spencer Cox in March, aims to hold adult websites accountable for making their content accessible to minors under the age of 18.

To oppose this law, Pornhub and other adult sites under the control of its parent company, MindGeek, have begun blocking visitors with IP addresses located in Utah.

Instead of adult content, users from the affected area will see a message from the site expressing their disagreement with SB287.

“As you may know, your elected officials in Utah are requiring us to verify your age before allowing you access to our website. While safety and compliance are at the forefront of our mission, giving your ID card every time you want to visit an adult platform is not the most effective solution for protecting our users, and in fact, will put children and your privacy at risk,” the statement reads. “We believe that the best and most effective solution for protecting children and adults alike is to identify users by their device and allow access to age-restricted materials and websites based on that identification. Until a real solution is offered, we have made the difficult decision to completely disable access to our website in Utah.”

The statement claims that the age verification requirement could lead users to visit websites with fewer safety measures and suggests that policymakers identify users based on their device, rather than requiring them to upload their photo ID.

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Philadelphia Man Who Turned ‘Apartment Into Shooting Gallery In Murderous Rampage’ Convicted Of Killing Two

PHILADELPHIA (BCDAO) – Alfonso Sanchez was convicted by a Bucks County jury on Monday, May 1, 2023, of first-degree murder for the killing of a man and woman inside a Warminster Township apartment in 2007. Sanchez gunned down Lisa Diaz, 27, and Mendez Thomas, 22, on Oct. 16, 2007, inside the Bucks Landing apartments. During the rampage, Sanchez also attempted to kill a third victim, who used her body to shield her toddler son from the violence. The trial began on April 24, 2023, in front of Common Pleas Judge Alan Rubenstein and included testimony from several witnesses, including the surviving victim.

After almost five days of evidence, testimony and closing arguments, the jury began deliberating late Friday. On Monday afternoon, the jury returned a guilty verdict on two counts of first-degree murder, and counts of burglary, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person and related offenses. Additionally, the jury found Sanchez guilty of solicitation to commit murder in a plot to kill the surviving victim. Sanchez, 41, of Philadelphia, now faces the penalty phase, which is set to begin Tuesday.

In his closing arguments Friday, District Attorney Matt Weintraub said the surviving victim has always maintained since the very beginning of the investigation that Sanchez was responsible for the attack that claimed the life of her sister and boyfriend.

“She told us who the murderer is: His name is Alfonso,” Weintraub said, playing the 911 call where she repeats the statement to a dispatcher.

On the night of Oct. 16, 2007, Sanchez and two other men – Steven Miranda and Alex Martinez – went to Thomas’s apartment under the ruse that they wanted to buy marijuana from him. When the three men arrived, Lisa Diaz was inside watching her sister’s two young children. Thomas and his girlfriend were at a neighbor’s house at the time and arrived a few minutes later. After they had completed the marijuana transaction inside the apartment, Thomas and Sanchez got into a verbal altercation when one of them stepped on the other’s shoe.

Thomas went into the apartment’s hallway, and Sanchez followed behind him. Sanchez then pulled a handgun from his waistband, pointed it at Thomas, and shot him in the head. Sanchez then turned the gun on Diaz, who was in the living room. He fired two shots at her, one of them striking her in the shoulder.

After she fell to the floor, Sanchez shot her in the head.

Describing the apartment as a “killing zone,” Weintraub said, “he turned this tiny apartment into his own shooting gallery in his murderous rampage.”

Fearing she or her children would be next, the surviving victim had to make a choice no parent should ever have to make, Weintraub said, choosing which of her children to protect.

“Her whole world is turned upside down, and she has to make a decision with deadly consequences,” Weintraub told jurors.

Grabbing her son, she balled up with him in her arms in a protective fetal position on the floor to shield him from danger. Sanchez fired a shot at her, striking her in the knee, and then fled the apartment. The two other men had fled earlier. After taking her children to a neighbor’s house, the surviving victim called 911, telling dispatchers her sister and boyfriend had been shot. She said her boyfriend wasn’t moving and her sister was dying.

When asked to describe the shooter, she cried, “His name’s Alfonso.” The chilling 911 call was played during the trial and again during closing arguments.

Martinez and Miranda surrendered to authorities the next day. Miranda was subsequently convicted on two counts of homicide and related offenses and was sentenced to two consecutive life terms while Martinez pleaded guilty to burglary and criminal conspiracy to commit burglary and was sentenced to four to 10 years in prison.

Sanchez was arrested nine days after the murders. He was at a home in Horsham, Montgomery County, hiding in the bathtub with hair dye, cash, and newspaper clippings about the shooting nearby. Earlier in the trial, Chief Deputy District Attorney Matt Lannetti described the items as “trophies of the carnage he inflicted.”

While awaiting trial for the murders, Sanchez tried to finish what he started in 2007 and ordered the killing of the surviving witness. Detectives intercepted prison phone calls, which were played during the trial. A Bucks County Detective testified that he listened to thousands of hours of prison calls, in which Sanchez used coded language to arrange the hit. In the calls, Sanchez ordered others to find the home or work address of the witness and have her “removed from the playing field.”

During his closing statement, Weintraub said, plain and simply, “people who are innocent of murder don’t try to have living witnesses killed.” In defending the credibility of prosecution witnesses who had been involved in other crimes with Sanchez, Weintraub told the jury, “Crimes conceived in hell do not have angels for witnesses. But they do have witnesses.”

In addition to these two cases, Sanchez last year pleaded guilty to running a drug ring that smuggled suboxone strips into Bucks County Correctional Facility and was sentenced to 10 to 40 years in prison.

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Man With Rifle Opens Fire At FOX13 Memphis News Building

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – FOX13 Memphis on Tuesday reported that a man fired shots into the news station’s South Highland Street office before barricading himself inside a nearby burger restaurant.

The incident occurred shortly after 11:15 am, and the shooter reportedly used a rifle to fire into the building through security doors. No injuries have been reported.

According to Memphis Police, they were at the scene responding to an “armed party” at the Ubee’s restaurant located at 521 South Highland.

The suspect steamed a Facebook live video while he was barricaded inside the restaurant. Police took him into custody about two hours later.

A motive for the shooting is unknown.

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U.S. Surgeon General: Widespread Loneliness Can Be as Deadly as Cigarettes

Loneliness has caused serious health risks, as nearly half of adults across the nation say they have experienced the feeling, the U.S. surgeon general said, declaring a public health epidemic. Source


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