Following the string of recent deepweb vendor arrests, two Brooklyn men have just been indicted in a case involving the selling of cocaine and heroin on the deepweb.
According to the Department of Justice website, 31-year-old Abudullah Almashwali and 24-year-old Chaudhry Ahmad Farooq were arrested on the 2nd of August. They were indicted on the 11th on federal charges of heroin and cocaine distribution, as well as federal conspiracy, says acting United States Attorney Phillip A. Talbert.
Court documents describe Almashwali and Farooq as large-scale cocaine and heroin vendors, acting under the vendor names “Area51” and “DarkApollo.” AlphaBay was the primary market for their sales according to the documents. However, a quick Grams search shows that the men sold on AlphaBay, Dream, and Oasis. When Nucleus and Agora existed, both men sold on those marketplaces as well.
The two AlphaBay accounts had been widely speculated (and here) to be run by the same person based on the nature of the product sold and quality of the product when received. DarkApollo’s account even tells viewers to check out the products on Area51’s account. Even worse, at one point, their accounts were mirror images of each other. While it seems they were not the same person, they clearly were working together, hence the federal conspiracy charge. Area51 had his own darknet marketplace set up, according to one of his posts on Reddit.
The men accepted orders on AlphaBay and shipped throughout the United States. In May 2016, law enforcement made two controlled purchases of heroin from Area 51. The packages were shipped from New York post offices to a P.O. Box in the Eastern District of California. Law enforcement was able to investigate postal records and discover that Almashwali had purchased the postage for the two heroin packages. Farooq was apparently involved in “other mailings.”
During the investigation, law enforcement officials were able to discover that the encrypted email address associated with the Area51 AlphaBay profile was linked to social media accounts. When they recovered the email’s password they discovered the same password was used for other online accounts. The documents specifically mention Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook – all three of which link back to Farooq. It’s concerning that this was considered an OK practice. Although unconfirmed, Reddit users who have purchased heroin from both vendor’s claim that both men use the same return address.
Central California Darknet Strike Force, a task force consisting of multiple agencies, is primarily responsible for this investigation; they exist to combat narcotic trafficking and money laundering on the darknet marketplaces. The lead agency involved in the case was the DEA, but U.S. Immigration and Customs, Homeland Security, the IRS, and the United States Postal Inspection Service all played a role in the take-down. The case is being prosecuted by assistant United States Attorneys Grant B. Rabenn and Jeffrey Spivak.
Under federal drug trafficking laws, if convicted, Almashwali and Farooq could each be facing 20 years in a federal prison and a $1 million dollar fine. They are currently awaiting transfer to the Eastern District of California where they will be held while awaiting sentencing.
If you were purchasing from either of these guys, stop immediately. At the time of this article, their AlphaBay profiles are still active, as well as a couple on other markets. Do NOT buy from Area51 or DarkApollo under any circumstances.