A major darknet drug dealer has been arrested after eagle-eyed postal workers alerted the authorities – highlighting the importance of offline efforts in the fight against cyber-related crime.
Chukwuemeke Okparaeke, 28, has been charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute large quantities of an analogue of fentanyl, a drug many times stronger than heroin which has caused numerous overdose fatalities, according to the Department of Justice.
“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,” said Acting US attorney Joon Kim.
“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 US Postal Service for bringing Okparaeke’s alleged criminal exploitation out of the dark.”
Okparaeke is said to have bought from suppliers overseas in large quantities and shipped them on to customers in the US via post offices in New York and New Jersey.
However, that’s where his plan fell apart, after staff grew suspicious of his wearing latex gloves when handing over the packages. Postal workers also noted his driver’s license and registration after he bulk bought Priority Mail stamps.
Law enforcers were then able to use this information to join the dots together.
Intercepted fentanyl packages inbound at JFK airport were addressed to Okparaeke, while separate officers made darknet fentanyl purchases from a “Fentmaster” – later deducing that the drug, packaging, postage and return address all matched the concurrent investigation.
Unsurprisingly, on his arrest, officers found Okparaeke’s Galaxy S5 smartphone was equipped with a Private Internet Access VPN app, the Orbot Tor proxy app for Android and a Bitcoin checker app – classic tools for any darknet dealer.
Ironically, considering his obvious technical ability, the suspect had failed to delete his mobile browsing history. Investigators were able to find evidence of several incriminating Reddit posts they believe were made by Okparaeke, which, if true, could indicate he used to be a doctor.
He now faces a minimum 10 years and maximum life sentence if found guilty.