UNITED STATES AND INTERNATIONAL LAW ENFORCEMENT DISMANTLE ONLINE ORGANIZED CRIME RING OPERATING OUT OF ROMANIA THAT VICTIMIZED THOUSANDS OF U.S. RESIDENTS
LEXINGTON, Ky.— Benjamin Norman Joseph Flanigan, 27, and Haleigh Breanne Flanigan, 27, of Lexington, were sentenced to federal prison on Thursday, by U.S. District Judge Karen K. Caldwell. Benjamin Flanigan pled guilty to drug distribution and conspiracy to commit drug distribution and was sentenced to 18 months. Haleigh Flanigan also pled guilty to was conspiracy to commit drug distribution and conspiracy to commit money laundering and was sentenced to 48 months.
According to both Flanigans’ plea agreements, they admitted to participating in a darknet market drug trafficking organization, operating under the moniker PartyCrew. The darknet is an overlay of the internet that is only accessible through certain software, configurations, or authorization. Access to the darknet is designed to anonymize the user, and it is mostly used for illicit purposes. Marketplaces on the darknet are used to buy and sell illicit goods and services. The PartyCrew darknet marketplace posting advertised the sale of multiple controlled substances in exchange for cryptocurrencies such as Monero and Bitcoin. For their part, the Flanigans fulfilled orders for controlled substances, by packaging and mailing them through the U.S. mail to customers across the United States. Haleigh Flanigan received payment for her services in cryptocurrencies, which she further attempted to conceal through the use of cryptocurrency anonymizing tools.
The prosecution included a third member of the conspiracy, Joshua Cook, who has pled guilty to the same offenses as Haleigh Flanigan and is scheduled to be sentenced on July 25, 2023. It also amounted to a total dismantling of the PartyCrew drug trafficking organization.
Benjamin and Haleigh Flanigan pled guilty in February of 2023.
Under federal law, the Defendants must serve 85 percent of their prison sentences; and upon their release from prison, they will be under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Office for 3 years.
Carlton S. Shier, IV, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, and J. William Rivers, Special Agent in Charge for the Federal Bureau of Investigation-Cincinnati, jointly announced the sentence.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI. The United States was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kathryn Dieruf and Emily Greenfield.
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