Two Brooklyn Men Indicted for Distributing Heroin and Cocaine on Dark Web Marketplace Alphabay
FRESNO, Calif. — Abudullah Almashwali, 31, a Yemeni national residing in Brooklyn, New York, and Chaudhry Ahmad Farooq, 24, a Pakistani national residing in Brooklyn, New York, were indicted today on charges of distributing heroin and cocaine, and conspiracy, Acting United States Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced. Almashwali and Farooq were arrested on August 2, 2016 in Brooklyn, New York, and are awaiting transfer to the Eastern District of California.
According to court documents, Almashwali and Farooq, using the vendor names “Area51” and “DarkApollo,” were large-scale heroin and cocaine distributors on the dark web marketplace AlphaBay. 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.
According to the complaint, Almashwali and Farooq accepted orders for heroin and cocaine on AlphaBay, and then mailed the narcotics from post offices in New York to customers throughout the United States. They received payment in Bitcoin. In May 2016, law enforcement made two undercover purchases of heroin from “Area51,” which were delivered to a post office box in the Eastern District of California. Postal records revealed that Almashwali purchased the postage for the two heroin parcels mailed to law enforcement, and that Farooq was involved in other mailings. Law enforcement agents were also able to determine that the encrypted email address used by “Area51” and “DarkApollo” was associated with actual Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts used by Farooq.
This case is a product of an investigation by the Central California Darknet Strike Force, an inter-agency task force dedicated to combating the use of dark web marketplaces and digital currency to distribute narcotics and launder money. The lead agency on this case was the Drug Enforcement Administration, with assistance provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant United States Attorneys Grant B. Rabenn and Jeffrey Spivak are prosecuting the case.
Additionally, 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.
If convicted, Almashwali and Farooq face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Any sentence, however, would 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. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.