Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that CHUKWUEMEKA OKPARAEKE, a/k/a “Emeka,” was sentenced today to 180 months in prison for importing and trafficking fentanyl analogues and other synthetic opioids through the dark web. OKPARAEKE previously pled guilty to distributing U-47700, a controlled substance analogue of AH-7921; importing 100 grams and more of acryl fentanyl, a controlled substance analogue of fentanyl, from Hong Kong; and making false statements to the Government regarding the proceeds of his offenses. Through his guilty plea, OKPARAEKE admitted that in November 2016, he sold U-47700 to an 18-year-old individual (the “Victim”), who died from an overdose after using the drug. OKPARAEKE further admitted that his narcotics offenses involved over 9 kilograms of acryl fentanyl, nearly 6 kilograms of U-47700, over a kilogram of furanyl fentanyl, as well as 12 grams of 4-ANPP. OKPARAEKE was sentenced in White Plains federal court by U.S. District Judge Nelson S. Román, who previously accepted OKPARAEKE’s guilty plea.
U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “Chukwuemeka Okparaeke previously admitted that he peddled highly addictive opioids over the darknet, including to an 18-year-old who died from them. Okparaeke also lied to agents and prosecutors about the whereabouts of Bitcoins representing millions of dollars in poison-peddling proceeds. Now Okparaeke will forfeit those proceeds and go to prison for his crimes.”
According to the allegations in the Superseding Information, Complaint, other court filings, and statements made during public court proceedings:
From at least July 2016 through March 2017, OKPARAEKE imported kilogram quantities of fentanyl analogues, including acryl fentanyl and furanyl fentanyl, and other synthetic opioids, including U-47700, from Hong Kong and China into the United States. To transact with customers and coordinate his narcotics sales, OKPARAEKE used a darknet website known as AlphaBay Market (“AlphaBay”), accessible only through a special software program that allows users to mask their identities and anonymize their internet traffic. Under the AlphaBay vendor name “Fentmaster,” OKPARAEKE engaged in more than 7,000 sales of synthetic opioids, which he shipped to customers throughout the United States using the U.S. Postal Service. OKPARAEKE’s narcotics trafficking generated criminal proceeds of at least 680.60963624 Bitcoins, worth millions of dollars.
In November 2016, OKPARAEKE sold three grams of U-47700 to the Victim, an 18-year-old living in Vancouver, Washington, in an AlphaBay transaction. The Victim used the drugs purchased from OKPARAEKE and died in a U-47700 overdose on November 10, 2016.
OKPARAEKE – who attended medical school before he began selling synthetic opioids on AlphaBay – used extensive measures to conceal his identity, including software to encrypt his internet traffic and communications sent from his cellphone. Using alter egos, he boasted online about his exploits as a darknet drug trafficker, offered advice to other drug dealers, and published a short story describing his criminal activities and his strategies for evading law enforcement. In January 2017, Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”), in conjunction with Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) and United States Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), intercepted several packages containing kilogram quantities of fentanyl analogues that OKPARAEKE had imported from Hong Kong. Subsequently, in March 2017, law enforcement searched a drug premises OKPARAEKE maintained in Kearny, New Jersey. During the search, law enforcement seized more than 10 kilograms of U-47700, acryl fentanyl, and furanyl fentanyl, as well as a quantity of 4-ANPP and approximately 82 mailing envelopes containing smaller amounts of those substances that OKPARAEKE had packaged for distribution to his customers.
On September 15, 2020, OKPARAEKE met with representatives of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. During that meeting, OKPARAEKE falsely represented that the approximately 680 Bitcoins – worth millions of dollars – generated by his narcotics sales on AlphaBay were no longer in his possession and control, and that a third party had stolen the Bitcoins from him through hacking and other unauthorized access to OKPARAEKE’s electronic accounts. OKPARAEKE subsequently surrendered the 680 Bitcoins to USPIS and agreed to forfeit those proceeds as part of his plea agreement.
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In addition to the prison term, OKPARAEKE, 32, of Middletown, New York, was sentenced to five years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $105,177.30 in United States currency and 680.60963624 Bitcoins, presenting proceeds of his narcotics trafficking.
Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding efforts of the USPIS, HSI, CBP, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Fairfax County, Virginia, Police Department, the Virginia Office of the Attorney General, the Middletown Police Department, and the Vancouver, Washington, Police Department for their investigative work and ongoing support and assistance with the case.
The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s White Plains Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Gillian Grossman, Olga I. Zverovich, and Sagar Ravi are in charge of the prosecution.