South Bay Man Found Guilty of Selling Fentanyl-Laced Pills That Caused Fatal Poisoning of 15-Year-Old Rolling Hills Estates Boy
LOS ANGELES – A San Fernando Valley man and woman who allegedly used darknet marketplaces to sell hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of fentanyl-laced pills and cocaine to buyers nationwide have been indicted by a federal grand jury, the Justice Department announced today.
Brian McDonald, 22, of Van Nuys, whose aliases include “Malachai Johnson,” “SouthSideOxy,” and “JefeDeMichoacan,” and Ciara Clutario, 22, of Burbank, were charged in an eight-count indictment returned Wednesday.
Both defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and cocaine, five counts of distribution of fentanyl, and one count of distribution of cocaine. McDonald also is charged with one count of possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
McDonald has been in federal custody since his arrest in this case on May 4, and his arraignment is scheduled for May 25 in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles. Clutario is expected to make her initial appearance in the coming weeks.
According to the indictment, from at least April 2021 until May 2023, McDonald, Clutario and others conspired to sell fentanyl and cocaine via darknet marketplaces such as “White House Market,” “ToRReZ” and “AlphaBay.” McDonald, using aliases, created vendor profiles on these marketplaces to sell illegal drugs in exchange for cryptocurrency, the indictment alleges.
McDonald and Clutario allegedly monitored and maintained the darknet vendor profiles, including by updating drug listings and shipment options, tracking drug orders received online, and offloading Monero cryptocurrency received as drug deal payments into cryptocurrency wallets that McDonald controlled.
McDonald allegedly recruited and hired accomplices – including Clutario – to help with packaging and shipping the narcotics that they sold on the darknet. McDonald directed Clutario and other co-conspirators on how to package and ship the narcotics, and he assisted them in the packaging and shipping, the indictment alleges.
The indictment alleges that in May 2021 – one week after McDonald created a darknet vendor profile for the purpose of selling illegal drugs – he texted Clutario to tell her that their darknet drug sales were “flourish[ing].” Later that month, McDonald allegedly texted a co-conspirator that he had just sold 20,000 pills to customers.
In June 2021, McDonald allegedly texted an accomplice that he had 34 drug orders he had to fill. The following month, in text messages to Clutario about the conspiracy’s goals, McDonald stated, “i’m really tryna make like 5 mil,” according to the indictment.
The proceeds from the drug sales – after being converted from cryptocurrency into cash – allegedly were stored by McDonald and Clutario at their respective residences. They shipped fentanyl and cocaine that were sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the indictment.
McDonald also allegedly possessed firearms, specifically two gold-plated handguns – one without a serial number – to protect his drug trafficking business and the proceeds of drug sales made on darknet marketplaces.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant committed a crime. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
In convicted of all charges, McDonald and Clutario would face mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years and 10 years, respectively, in federal prison. Each defendant also would face a statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison.
The FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration are investigating this matter as part of JCODE. The Justice Department established the FBI-led JCODE team to lead and coordinate government efforts to detect, disrupt, and dismantle major criminal enterprises reliant on the darknet for trafficking opioids and other illicit narcotics, along with identifying and dismantling their supply chains.
Assistant United States Attorneys Declan T. Conroy and Ian V. Yanniello of the General Crimes Section are prosecuting this case.
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