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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 30, 2020

Man Pleads Guilty to Selling Drugs on Dark Web

RICHMOND, Va. – A former Richmond man pleaded guilty today to distribution of drugs similar to fentanyl.

According to court documents, Mark Faulkner, 36, was identified as part of a multi-agency federal investigation into illegal drug sales on “dark web” market places. Marketplaces on the dark web, like AlphaBay, Dream, and Hansa, function as a place where a wide variety of illegal goods and services, including narcotics, firearms, child pornography, stolen credit card numbers, and counterfeit identity documents, can be bought and sold with greater anonymity than on the traditional Internet. 

In 2017, investigators with HSI and USPIS conducted online undercover operations targeting the importation and distribution of drugs on these dark web marketplaces. In addition to making covert online purchases of drugs, investigators also operated a cash-for-Bitcoin exchange business, through which they received Bitcoin from drug vendors in return for bulk cash that investigators shipped back to the drug vendors as part of the investigative process.

Faulkner used the vendor name CHANG1927 to advertise Adderall and fentanyl products on multiple dark markets. Investigators identified Faulkner through Bitcoin exchange transactions and three purchases of drugs that were advertised as fentanyl. Forensic testing later determined that the substance was actually cyclopropyl fentanyl, an analogue of fentanyl. Controlled substance analogues have chemical structures that are substantially similar, and have similar effects on the central nervous system as the controlled substances.

Faulkner pleaded guilty to distribution of a controlled substance analogue and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when sentenced on April 29. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Raymond Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C.; Peter R. Rendina, Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and David W. Archey, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge M. Hannah Lauck accepted the plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian R. Hood is prosecuting the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:19-cr-177.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Contact: 
Joshua Stueve Director of Public Affairs joshua.stueve@usdoj.gov
Updated January 30, 2020