Brooklyn Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Distribute Heroin on the Dark Web
FRESNO, Calif. — Chaudhry Ahmad Farooq, 24, of Brooklyn, New York, pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiring to distribute heroin, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
According to court documents, from approximately November 2015 through August 2016, Farooq conspired with co-defendant Abdullah Almashwali to distribute heroin on AlphaBay, a dark web marketplace. Under the moniker “DarkApollo,” Farooq distributed more than 600 grams of heroin in exchange for more than $145,000 in Bitcoin.
Dark web marketplaces are operated on computer networks designed to conceal the true Internet Protocol (IP) address of the computers accessing the network. Dark web marketplaces allow for payments to be made only in the form of digital currency, most commonly Bitcoin. While not inherently illegal, digital currency is used by dark web marketplaces because online transactions in digital currency can be completed without a third-party payment processor and are therefore perceived to be more anonymous and less vulnerable to law enforcement scrutiny.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Fresno Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Grant B. Rabenn and Ross Pearson are prosecuting the case.
Both Farooq and Almashwali are in federal custody. Almashwali is scheduled for trial on April 18, 2017. The charges against him are only allegations; he is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Farooq is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd on May 17, 2017. Farooq faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
This case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF program was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multilevel attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.