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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of North Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 31, 2019

Georgia Man Sentenced To 10 Years For Trafficking Lethal Synthetic Opioid He Purchased On The Dark Web Using Cryptocurrency

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray announced today that Marcus Lenard Armstrong, 35, of McDonough, Georgia, was sentenced to 120 months in prison and three years of supervised release on drug trafficking conspiracy charges, for buying the deadly synthetic opioid “U-47700” on the dark web using cryptocurrency.

“As Armstrong can attest, traffickers buying deadly drugs on the dark web in hopes of avoiding prosecution is a strategy fraught with peril,” said U.S. Attorney Murray.  “The opioid abuse crisis is serious, and fighting an epidemic that is affecting communities across the Western District is a priority for my office.  From the virtual street corner to the concrete one, those who pour lethal synthetic drugs into our neighborhoods will be investigated and prosecuted.”

Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Atlanta Field Division stated, “Whether you’re hiding behind the veil of the dark web or pushing drugs on a street corner or in a back alley, DEA, its law enforcement allies and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will relentlessly pursue you until you are brought to justice. With this case, the powerful and potentially deadly opioid “U47700” will no longer be distributed by this individual who is deserving of his lengthy sentence.”

“The Postal Service has no interest in being the unwitting accomplice to anyone using the U.S. Mail to distribute illegal drugs or other harmful substances,” said David M. McGinnis, U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge of the Charlotte Division. “Postal Inspectors’ objectives are to rid the mail of illicit drug trafficking, preserve the integrity of the mail and, most importantly, provide a safe environment for postal employees and the American public. The sentencing handed down today should serve as a reminder to other perpetrators engaged in this type of criminal activity that we will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to ensure they are brought to justice.”

According to filed court documents, from November 2016 to January 2018, Armstrong engaged in a conspiracy to traffic a lethal synthetic opioid, known as “U-47700.”  Court records show that in June 2017, Armstrong arranged for a package containing the deadly opioid to be mailed to a residential address in Charlotte.  Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement determined that Armstrong was using cryptocurrency to purchase “U-47700” on multiple dark web markets that sell and purchase illegal drugs.

On June 30, 2017, law enforcement visited the residence the parcel was addressed to in Charlotte and spoke with an individual who admitted to accepting packages for a “family friend,” later identified as Armstrong.  Law enforcement seized the package, and confirmed that it contained 1,003.38 grams of the U-47700 drug.  Court records show that two more packages were scheduled for delivery to the same residential address.  On the same day, Armstrong went to a local post office in Charlotte to inquire about the delivery of the package. A U.S. Postal Inspector on site approached Armstrong and asked the defendant for more information about the package.  After Armstrong became suspicious, he assaulted the Postal Inspector and attempted to flee the scene.  Armstrong was apprehended outside of the post office. 

According to court records, following his arrest, Armstrong was placed on pretrial release with electronic monitoring.  While on pretrial release, Armstrong cut the transmitter he was required to wear at all times and attempted to elude authorities.  He was arrested by law enforcement and was placed in federal custody. In April 2018, Armstrong pleaded guilty to drug trafficking conspiracy.

According to the DEA, U-47700 is a novel synthetic opioid, and its abuse parallels that of heroin and morphine, prescription opioids, and other novel opioids.  In November 2016, after receiving multiple reports of confirmed fatalities in multiple states, including in North Carolina, DEA responded to the imminent threat to public health and safety by placing U-47700 into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.  Emergency scheduling of dangerous drugs such as U-47700 on a temporary basis is one of the most significant tools utilized to address the problems associated with deadly new street drugs.  

In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney Murray thanked the DEA, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department for their investigation of this case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sanjeev Bhasker, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, was in charge of the prosecution.

 

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Updated January 31, 2019