Dark Web Vendor Enters Plea, Faces 10 Years for Internet Distribution of Deadly Carfentanil, Fentanyl, and Other Drugs
Assistant U. S. Attorney Sherri Hobson (619) 961-0287
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – May 1, 2018
SAN DIEGO – Today, in federal court, San Diego resident Sky Justin Gornik, age 39, pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to deliver, distribute and dispense controlled substances through the internet, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(h), 841(b)(1)(A), and 846. Gornik also admitted that he engaged in a conspiracy to launder drug proceeds using digital currencies, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 1956(a)(1)(A)(i) and 1956(h). He agreed to forfeit millions of dollars in digital or crypto currencies that resulted from illegal drug sales. The guilty plea triggered a 10-year minimum mandatory sentence.
As part of his guilty plea, Gornik admitted that from 2014 to June 7, 2017 (the date of his arrest by federal authorities), he bought and sold controlled substances on the “Dark Web” or “Darknet.” Employing anonymous screen names, Gornik used multiple Darknet marketplaces (including Alpha Bay, Trade Route, Abraxas, Evolution, Outlaw Market, and Dream Market) to buy and sell controlled substances. Specifically, Gornik admitted that he purchased and sold fentanyl and purchased the especially deadly opiate carfentanil, using a variety of digital currencies. Gornik also purchased and sold multiple other controlled substances, including thousands of vials of ketamine, oxycodone pills, Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), Psilocybin and Psilocin, Amphetamine, Buprenorphine, Methamphetamine, and Naloxone. To conceal his criminal activity, Gornik would then blend and transfer the various digital currencies to other virtual wallets and accounts.
According to court documents, agents seized 1.7 grams of carfentanil inside Gornik’s residence on June 7, 2017. Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid approximately 10,000 more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl. The 1.722 grams of carfentanil seized in Gornik’s residence could equate to over 86,000 fatal dosages. Gornik also possessed sheets of fentanyl gelatin tablets (approximately 100 tabs per sheet), which agents seized during the search. According to court documents, Gornik obtained 600-1200 fentanyl gel tablets each week for approximately two years from a Darknet vendor, now identified as Steven Wallace George. George, the Oklahoma Darknet vendor, manufactured the pure fentanyl that he obtained from China into gelatin tablets. George pled guilty in federal court to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and distribution of fentanyl and is currently awaiting sentencing (Case No. 17-090-R Western District of Oklahoma).
As part of Gornik’s guilty plea to laundering money and to distributing controlled substances by the internet, Gornik agreed to forfeit millions of dollars in digital or crypto currency including Bitcoins, Stratis, Ethereum, 2350 Monero, digital currency contained in Gornik’s Bittrex accounts, and digital currency contained in Gornik’s Poloniex accounts. Gornik admitted that these digital or crypto currency represented drug trafficking proceeds of the offense and were involved in the offense of money laundering over the Darknet.
The investigation was led by U.S. Postal Inspectors in San Diego with the assistance of Special Agents of Homeland Security Investigations.
“A speck of carfentanil the size of a grain of sand can kill you, making this substance extremely deadly. Here law enforcement agents took 86,000 potentially fatal carfentanil doses out of Dark Web circulation, along with many other dangerous drugs, including fentanyl. We will vigorously prosecute dealers and Dark Web vendors who cavalierly endanger our community’s residents and first responders by selling deadly opioids,” stated U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman. “And Dark Web vendors beware: your cryptocurrencies are not safe from seizure.”
“The Postal Inspection Service is dedicated to protecting the American public and has made battling synthetic opioids in the mail one of its highest priorities. By working closely with other law enforcement partners in operations like this one, we can prevent dangerous drugs from reaching the communities we serve,” said Nichole Cooper, Inspector in Charge of the Los Angeles Division (to include San Diego).
“HSI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to combat the trafficking of dangerous fentanyl and other deadly opioids on the Dark Web,” said Dave Shaw, Special Agent in Charge for HSI San Diego. “I commend the federal agents who worked tirelessly to uncover Gornik’s illicit financial scheme and transnational drug trafficking activities.”
Gornik pled guilty today before Magistrate Judge Bernard G. Skomal, and will be sentenced by District Court Judge Anthony Battalgia on July 16, 2018 at 9 a.m.
U.S. Attorney Braverman would like to specially thank the United States Postal Inspection Service, Homeland Security Investigations, the Internal Revenue Service, and DOJ Money Laundering & Asset Recovery Section for their efforts.
DEFENDANT Criminal Case No.17CR2796AJB
SKY JUSTIN GORNIK Age: 39 San Diego, California
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Count 1 (Conspiracy to Deliver, Dispense, and Distribute Controlled Substances By Internet
Maximum penalty: 10 year minimum mandatory to life, fine of $1,000,000, 5 years of supervised release
Count 2 (Conspiracy To Launder Money)
Maximum penalty: 20 years; fine of $500,000, 3 years of supervised release
Criminal Forfeiture As To Count 1
Forfeiture to the United States of all property, real and personal, that constitutes or is derived from proceeds of the offense, and all property, real and personal, that was used to commit or to facilitate the commission of the offense.
Criminal Forfeiture As To Count 2
Forfeiture to the United States of all property, real and personal, involved in the offense.
United States Postal Inspection Service, San Diego
United States Postal Inspection Services, Cyber Unit, Washington D.C.
United States Postal Inspection Service, Oklahoma
Homeland Security Investigations
Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations
San Diego Police Department
San Diego District Attorney’s Office
U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Money Laundering & Asset Recovery Section