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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of California

Monday, August 7, 2017

Merced Man Pleads Guilty to Distributing Marijuana and Cocaine Nationwide Through Dark Web Marketplaces

FRESNO, Calif. — David Ryan Burchard, 40, of Merced, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute marijuana on dark web marketplaces, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to the criminal complaint, Burchard, using the moniker “Caliconnect,” was a major narcotics vendor on the Silk Road and other dark web marketplaces, including Agora, Abraxas, and AlphaBay. Dark-web marketplaces are operated on computer networks designed to conceal the true Internet Protocol (IP) address of the computers accessing the network. In addition, dark web marketplaces allow for payments to be made only in the form of digital currency, most commonly in 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.

According to the complaint, Burchard accepted orders for marijuana and cocaine on dark web marketplaces and then mailed the narcotics from post offices in Merced and Fresno County to his customers throughout the United States. Burchard was paid primarily in bitcoin. Burchard conducted sales in excess of $1.4 million on Silk Road before that dark web marketplace was closed. The complaint alleges that after federal law enforcement shut down the Silk Road website and arrested its founder in October 2013, Burchard transferred his narcotics business to Agora and then to AlphaBay, which are other dark web marketplaces.

This case is the product of an investigation by 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. Attorney Grant Rabenn is prosecuting the case.

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.

Burchard is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill on October 30, 2017. Burchard faces a maximum statutory penalty 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.

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 
1:16-cr-051 LJO
Updated August 7, 2017