Two California Men Charged in Large-Scale Opioid Distribution Ring
NEWARK, N.J. – Two California men were arrested today for their alleged roles in a large-scale opioid distribution conspiracy that involved the shipment of at least 500,000 fentanyl pills to New Jersey, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.
Andrew Tablack, 26, of Beverly Hills, California, and Stephan Durham, 43, of Altadena, California, were both charged by complaint with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of cyclopropyl fentanyl. Tablack is also charged with distribution of 400 grams or more of cyclopropyl fentanyl. Both defendants were arrested this morning and appeared this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick J. Walsh in Los Angeles federal court.
According to the complaint:
Beginning in August 2017, the Drug Enforcement Administration began an investigation into the distribution of fentanyl in the Monmouth County, New Jersey, area. Agents executed a search warrant at a Monmouth County residence that resulted in the seizure of a substantial quantity of controlled substances, including approximately 300,000 cyclopropyl fentanyl pills that allegedly had been shipped by Tablack to New Jersey. Tablack and his customers across the United States, including New Jersey, allegedly used the Dark Web – a part of the internet that is not accessible without specific software – to arrange shipments of quantities of cyclopropyl fentanyl to various places throughout the country. Tablack also used end-to-end encrypted communication applications to take orders for fentanyl from customers in New Jersey.
The New Jersey customers allegedly provided Tablack with residential addresses in Monmouth County to which the packages of fentanyl could be mailed and arranged to intercept the packages before they were delivered. Customers paid Tablack with Bitcoin, a form of cryptocurrency that is increasingly common in the narcotics trade due to its relative anonymity.
One such set of packages, mailed by Tablack in September 2017, was intercepted by law enforcement when it reached New Jersey. When the packages were opened, agents found that they contained 226,520 cyclopropyl fentanyl pills that weighed nearly 20 kilograms.
Tablack allegedly maintained a pill production facility in California. Shipping records revealed that Tablack had purchased at least nine pill press machines that were shipped to an industrial building in California. Records showed that a company ostensibly run by Durham was registered as the lessee of that industrial property.
Tablack allegedly purchased quantities of fentanyl from a laboratory in China that shipped the packages disguised as food and beauty products. Law enforcement officers in California were able to intercept several additional packages sent from various parts of Asia bound for properties controlled by Tablack and Durham, including fentanyl and dies used to mark illicitly manufactured pills.
The charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, a potential maximum penalty of life in prison, and a $10 million fine.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tazneen Shahabuddin of the U.S. Attorney’s Office General Crimes Unit in Newark.
Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited the special agents of DEA in Newark, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Valerie Nickerson; special agents of DEA in Los Angeles, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge David Downing; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Homeland Security Investigation’s (HSI) Newark Division, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael McCarthy; DHS-HSI, Los Angeles Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Joseph Macias; inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Acting Inspector in Charge Joseph W. Cronin; and special agents of the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Kenneth Cleevely, Eastern Area Field Office, with the investigation leading to the charges.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.