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Press Release


For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Michigan

DETROIT – Victor Hernandez, the leader of a conspiracy to sell cocaine and counterfeit pills over the dark web and launder the proceeds through cryptocurrency, was sentenced today to 130 months in federal prison, United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison announced.  

Ison was joined in the announcement by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Detroit Acting Special Agent in Charge Jared Murphy, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Andrew P. Lawton, Drug Enforcement Administration, Detroit Field Division, and Angelo Horiates III, IRS Criminal Investigation (CI), Acting Special Agent in Charge, Detroit Field Office.

Victor Hernandez, 31, of Detroit, pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to distribute illicit substances, a conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, his distribution of counterfeit pills, and the use of firearms in furtherance of the crime. He was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Linda V. Parker.  As part of the sentence, Hernandez was ordered to forfeit the proceeds from his crimes, in the form of a $3.1 million money judgment.

Hernandez’s sister, Carolyn Hernandez-Taylor, also pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced to 60 months in federal prison by Judge Parker earlier this year.

Hernandez ran a dark web vendor site under the moniker “opiateconnect,” selling illicit scheduled drugs, including cocaine, and various counterfeit drugs. These counterfeit pills were made to look like alprazolam—the most commonly prescribed psychotropic medication in the United States (including under the brand name Xanax), used to manage panic and anxiety disorders—but were in fact uncontrolled research chemicals not scheduled for human consumption.

Federal investigators worked for months to determine the identity of “opiateconnect” and the location he was using. That investigation led to the execution of a search warrant at Hernandez’s house in Detroit, where agents discovered a clandestine drug lab capable of producing upwards of 20,000 pills per hour. They also found around three firearms, a “tub” containing approximately 600 grams of cocaine, thousands of pressed counterfeit alprazolam pills, $340,000 in cash, and more than $1 million in cryptocurrency.

“Today’s sentence reflects the seriousness of the danger posed to this community by the armed distribution of controlled substances and counterfeit pills,” U.S. Attorney Ison said. “This defendant tried to hide in the anonymity he thought the dark web and his use of cryptocurrency provided, but the tireless combined efforts of state and federal investigators pierced that shield. We will continue to pursue digital-age drug dealers and work to ensure that their crimes result in prison and the seizure of their illicit proceeds.”

“The efforts of drug traffickers and criminals have evolved over the years, but our commitment to hold them accountable remains the same,” said HSI Detroit acting Special Agent in Charge Jared Murphey. “As this case has demonstrated, we stand focused and ready to take down other illicit online marketplaces that would poison communities in Michigan.”

“Drug traffickers often believe the anonymity of the dark web can shield them from investigation and prosecution, and this sentencing clearly demonstrates that is a false notion. Along with our local, state and federal partners, DEA will employ every resource to bring drug traffickers like Mr. Hernandez to justice,” said DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Lawton.

“The laundering of illegal drug profits is as important and essential to drug traffickers as the very distribution of their illegal drugs,” said Angelo Horiates III, IRS Criminal Investigation (CI), Acting Special Agent in Charge, Detroit Field Office. “Without these ill-gotten gains, the traffickers cannot finance their organizations. The role of CI in narcotics investigations is to follow the money; we are highly adept at financially disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking organizations, online or in the physical world. We are proud to provide our financial expertise as we work alongside our law enforcement partners to bring criminals to justice.”

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

The investigation was conducted by the Detroit Dark Web Task Force, which consists of HSI, Postal Inspection Service Office of the Inspector General (USPIS-OIG), Secret Service (USSS), IRS-CI, Michigan State Police (MSP), and CBP. The purpose of the task force is to investigate criminal organizations, to include drug vendors, that operate within dark web marketplaces.  The task force has disrupted and dismantled numerous drug trafficking organizations through criminal arrests, and the seizure of the proceeds from criminal activity.

Updated June 26, 2024

Drug Trafficking