Brentwood Man Arrested for Distributing Ecstasy and Crystal Methamphetamine
Defendant Operated On-Line Drug Distribution Organization on the Dark Web – 10 Kilograms of Ecstasy Worth $1.5 Million Seized
A criminal complaint was unsealed yesterday in federal court in Central Islip charging Lawrence Ross with conspiring to distribute, and distributing, more than 10 kilograms of ecstasy and more than 45 grams of methamphetamine. The defendant’s initial appearance was yesterday afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Arlene R. Lindsay, who ordered him detained.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge, United States Postal Inspection Service, New York Division (USPIS), and Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent-in-Charge, United States Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, New York Field Office (HSI) announced the charges.
“As alleged, Ross sold ecstasy and crystal methamphetamine via the dark web and Wickr in exchange for Bitcoin, and then shipped the drugs to his customers through the U.S. mail,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “Drug traffickers who believe they will escape detection by using the dark web, encrypted messaging applications and cryptocurrency should understand that they are not anonymous, their activities will be uncovered, and they will be prosecuted.” Mr. Donoghue expressed his grateful appreciation to the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office Heroin Task Force for their assistance in the investigation.
“This arrest highlights the benefits of cooperation and collaboration between law enforcement agencies. Through these partnerships, we are keeping our communities safe from the spread of illegal narcotics purchased through the dark web,” stated USPIS Inspector-in- Charge Bartlett.
“Ross allegedly imported and manufactured his own drugs and used the veil of the dark-net to distribute his illicit products,” said HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Melendez. “More and more criminals are seeking ways to use the dark web to further their illegal enterprise, but law enforcement continues to evolve in its investigations to locate these vendors and bring them out of the shadows to face justice.”
Between November 2018 and the present, Ross allegedly sold controlled substances on the dark web, communicated with customers using the Wickr encrypted messaging application, distributed the drugs through the U.S. mail, and accepted the Bitcoin cryptocurrency as payment. The investigation began when a parcel containing ecstasy was seized by the Postal Inspection Service and was traced to Ross. An undercover postal inspector began purchasing controlled substances from Ross at screenname “Gladyman” through various dark web marketplaces. Ross advertised on his “Gladyman” dark web profile that customers could contact him via the Wickr at screenname “Sweettooth80,” and the undercover postal inspector began communicating with Ross using Wickr.
On May 31, 2019, using Wickr, the postal inspector ordered 100 ecstasy pills from Ross at screenname “Sweettooth80” and transferred $1,000 worth of Bitcoin to Ross’s digital wallet. Several hours later, at the Islip Post Office, Ross mailed 33 packages, including one addressed to the postal inspector’s undercover name. That package was seized and contained 100 pills that tested positive for Ecstasy.
On June 5, 2019, again using Wickr, the postal inspector ordered five grams of crystal methamphetamine from Ross at screenname “Sweettooth80.” The postal inspector then transferred $228.17 worth of Bitcoin to Ross’s digital wallet. Ross mailed 61 packages at the Bay Shore Post Office, including a package addressed to the postal inspector’s undercover name. The package was seized by postal inspectors and contained approximately five grams of a substance that tested positive for crystal methamphetamine.
A search warrant was executed at Ross’s residence yesterday, and postal inspectors recovered over 10 kilograms of ecstasy with a street value of approximately $1.5 million, a pill press for the manufacturing of controlled substances, approximately $250,000 of Bitcoin cryptocurrency and approximately $50,000 of U.S. currency.
The charges in the complaint are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
If convicted, the defendant faces a sentence of up to 20 years’ imprisonment.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lara Treinis Gatz and Artie McConnell are in charge of the prosecution.
Brentwood, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 19-MJ-665