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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 10, 2020

Huntersville, N.C. Man Is Sentenced To Prison For Trafficking Narcotics On The Dark Web Using Bitcoin ATMs & Virtual Wallets

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Today, U.S. District Judge Kenneth D. Bell, sentenced Anthony Blane Byrnes, 19, of Huntersville, N.C., to 71 months in prison on drug charges, for trafficking narcotics he purchased on the dark web using cryptocurrency, announced Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. In addition to the prison term imposed, Byrnes was also ordered to serve four years of supervised release.

According to the Criminal Information to which Byrnes pleaded guilty, other documents filed in this case and statements made in court, Byrnes conspired with a regional Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) to distribute narcotics on the Dark Web. In August 2019, law enforcement intercepted a mail parcel from Slovenia addressed to Byrnes, containing suspected narcotics. On or about August 7, 2019, law enforcement conducted a controlled delivery of this parcel at Byrnes’s Huntersville, NC residence.  Law enforcement observed Byrnes gathering the parcel and entering his residence. Subsequently, law enforcement executed a search warrant at the residence and seized numerous narcotics and contraband, including LSD, Psilocin, DMT, MDMA/Ecstasy, among other narcotics and paraphernalia. Law enforcement also recovered two firearms from the residence. Court documents demonstrate Byrnes had a previous infraction in April 2019, wherein law enforcement seized additional narcotics and a firearm. In total, three firearms and approximately $13,800 (USD) were recovered from Byrnes’ residence over the course of the investigation.

According to court documents, Byrnes purchased narcotics on the Dark Net Marketplace (DNM) “Empire Market.” Byrnes paid for the drugs using Bitcoin cryptocurrency, stored in VC wallets and used Bitcoin ATM machines in the greater Charlotte area to facilitate drug transactions, converting drug proceeds into virtual currency (VC), and arranging drug shipments for the DTO.

In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney Murray commended the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for leading the investigation, and thanked the Drug Enforcement Administration, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S.Customs and Border Protection,  and the Huntersville (NC) Police Department for their invaluable assistance.

Assistant United States Attorneys Sanjeev Bhasker and Seth Johnson, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, prosecuted the case.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Updated September 10, 2020