Two Men Charged in Multi-million Dollar Darknet Drug Distribution Conspiracy
Two Texas men were charged in a complaint unsealed today for their alleged participation in a drug distribution conspiracy perpetrated over the Darknet.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant of the Western District of Tennessee, Special Agent in Charge J. Todd Scott of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Louisville Field Division, Special Agent in Charge Erik P. Breitzke of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) El Paso, Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson of HSI Houston, and Special Agent in Charge Charles Grinstead of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Kansas City Field Office made the announcement.
Kevin Ombisi, 31, and Eric Russell Jr., 35, both of Katy, were each charged in a complaint filed in the Western District of Tennessee. Ombisi is charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of unlawful distribution of controlled substances, and Russell is charged with one count of conspiracy. Ombisi and Russell were arrested yesterday and made their initial appearance this afternoon.
The complaint alleges that Ombisi and Russell used a marketplace on the Darknet and an encrypted messaging service called Wickr to sell pills that were made to resemble the drug branded as Adderall. In reality, the pills were not Adderall. Instead, they contained methamphetamine.
In conjunction with the arrests, the government seized more than $5 million in assets alleged to be connected to the drug trafficking activity.
A complaint is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case was investigated by the DEA’s Nashville District Office Tactical Diversion Squad, HSI El Paso and Houston, and the FDA. Trial Attorney Jillian Willis of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Parks of the Western District of Tennessee are prosecuting the case with assistance on forfeiture matters from Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Cotten.
The Fraud Section leads the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force. Since its inception in October 2018, the ARPO Strike Force has charged more than 85 defendants who are collectively responsible for distributing more than 65 million pills. Since its inception in March 2007, the Health Care Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, has charged more than 4,200 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for approximately $19 billion.