Prolific Dark Web Dealer Of Carfentanil And Fentanyl Pleads Guilty
Defendant Richard Castro Led a Conspiracy that Sold Carfentanil and Fentanyl over the Dark Web to Customers across the United States for Several Years
Geoffrey S. Berman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that RICHARD CASTRO, a/k/a “Chemsusa,” a/k/a “Chems_usa,” a/k/a “Chemical_usa,” a/k/a “Jagger109,” pled guilty today to money laundering and to participating in a conspiracy to distribute carfentanil, fentanyl, and a fentanyl analogue over the “dark web,” including on AlphaBay and Dream Market. CASTRO also agreed to forfeit more than $4 million in criminal proceeds. CASTRO pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “As he admitted today, for years, Richard Castro used the dark web to distribute prolific quantities of powerful opioids, including fentanyl and carfentanil. Castro thought he could hide behind the anonymity of the internet, and use online pseudonyms to deal drugs – like ‘Chems_usa’ and ‘Chemical_usa.’ Thanks to our law enforcement partners, ‘Chems_usa’ is now in U.S. prison.”
According to the allegations in the Indictment to which RICHARD CASTRO pled guilty, public court filings, and statements made in court:
From November 2015 through March 2019, CASTRO conspired to distribute carfentanil, fentanyl, and phenyl fentanyl (an analogue of fentanyl). Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is significantly stronger than heroin, and carfentanil is a fentanyl analogue that is approximately 100 times stronger than fentanyl. For most of the conspiracy, CASTRO and a co-conspirator dealt drugs over the dark web, using the monikers “Chemsusa,” “Chems_usa,” and “Chemical_usa.” CASTRO was an operator of these online monikers and the leader of this conspiracy. On one dark web marketplace, Dream Market, CASTRO boasted that he had completed more than 3,200 transactions on other dark web markets, including more than 1,800 on AlphaBay. The customer feedback for “Chemsusa” included, “Extremely potent and definitely the real Carf,” as well as “The Carfent is unbelievably well synthesized, keep up the amazing work.”
In June 2018, CASTRO, using the “Chemsusa” moniker, informed his customers that he was moving his business off dark web marketplaces and would accept purchase requests for narcotics only via encrypted email. To learn the off-market email address, “Chems_usa” required willing customers to pay a fee. An undercover law enforcement officer paid this fee, obtained the encrypted email address, and placed orders with CASTRO. CASTRO’s co-defendant, Luis Fernandez, shipped narcotics on behalf of the conspiracy, including from New York City.
CASTRO’s customers paid him in Bitcoin. CASTRO laundered his narcotics proceeds in several ways, including by funneling millions of dollars through his Bitcoin wallets and by buying approximately 100 quadrillion Zimbabwe bank notes, among other valuables.
Under the terms of his plea agreement, CASTRO has agreed forfeit $4,156,198.18, including the funds or currency in seven different Bitcoin wallet addresses.
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RICHARD CASTRO, 36, of Windermere, Florida, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute three controlled substances – carfentanil, phenyl fentanyl, and fentanyl, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison; and one count of money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The statutory maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge. Sentencing is scheduled for October 25, 2019, at 2:30 p.m. before Judge Cote.
Mr. Berman praised the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the New York City Police Department for their outstanding investigative work. Mr. Berman also thanked the Internal Revenue Service and the Orange County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in this case.
This matter is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael D. Neff, Aline R. Flodr, and Ryan B. Finkel are in charge of the prosecution.