You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 20, 2017

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces The Arrest Of Chukwuemeka Okparaeke For Conspiracy To Distribute Analogues Of Fentanyl On The Darknet

Chukwuemeka Okparaeke Sold Fentanyl Analogues Through the United States Mail and Using the Darknet

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Phillip R. Bartlett, the Inspector in Charge of the New York Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), and Angel M. Melendez, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced the arrest of CHUKWUEMEKA OKPARAEKE for conspiracy to distribute large quantities of an analogue of fentanyl. Fentanyl and its analogues are synthetic opioids that are significantly stronger than heroin, and are major contributors to overdose fatalities.

 

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “The defendant’s alleged scheme combined one of the gravest current threats to public health – highly addictive and potentially lethal opioids – with a very modern criminal tool – the darknet. Okparaeke allegedly sold fentanyl-like controlled substances through an online black market to conceal the nature of the transactions and his identity. I want to thank our partners at the U.S. Postal Service for bringing Okparaeke’s alleged criminal exploitation out of the dark.”

 

USPIS Inspector in Charge Phillip R. Bartlett said: “Opioids such as fentanyl have become a public health crisis robbing many of productive futures and their very lives. Postal Inspectors have always made it their mission to protect the public and the U. S. Postal Service from these alleged drug traffickers, putting an end to their criminal enterprise through their misuse of the U. S. Mail.”

 

HSI Special Agent in Charge Angel M. Melendez said: “The defendant used an online black marketplace known as the ‘darknet’ to acquire large amounts of fentanyl which is a major factor in the large increase in overdose fatalities in our area. Describing himself as a darknet drug trafficker, this arrest shows that the darknet is no longer a secret place for criminals to conduct illegal activity while evading law enforcement.”

 

According to the allegations contained in the Complaint[1] charging OKPARAEKE:

 

Using the United States Postal Service, OKPARAEKE engaged in a conspiracy to receive and traffic kilograms of fentanyl analogues throughout the United States. During the operation of the conspiracy, OKPARAEKE received massive quantities of fentanyl analogues from suppliers abroad, repackaged the analogues into smaller quantities, and shipped them to customers using post offices throughout the New York-New Jersey area. To transact with customers and coordinate his sales, OKPARAEKE used an online black marketplace on the “darknet,” accessible only through a special software program that allows users to mask their identities through a process of encryption and decryption between numerous peer-to-peer connections. He used extensive measures to conceal his identity, including measures to encrypt his internet traffic and communications sent from his cellphone. Under an alter ego, he boasted about his exploits as a darknet drug trafficker online, where he also posted a short story detailing his criminal activities and his success at evading law enforcement.

 

* * *

 

OKPARAEKE, 28, is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute large quantities of an analogue of fentanyl, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.

 

OKPARAEKE was arrested today in Kearny, New Jersey, and will be presented later today before the Honorable Lisa M. Smith in United States District Court in White Plains, New York.

 

Mr. Kim praised the outstanding investigative work of the USPIS, HSI, the Fairfax County Police Department in Fairfax County, Virginia, the Office of the Attorney General in Virginia, and the Middletown Police Department. Mr. Kim thanked the Fairfax County Police Department for its significant contributions to the investigation and for its assistance in the arrest and apprehension of the defendant.

 

The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s White Plains Division. Assistant United States Attorney Gillian Grossman is in charge of the prosecution.

 

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth below constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 
17-088
Updated March 20, 2017