Michael Carlton Paiva, a 30-year-old man from Norton Shores, was sentenced to prison for ordering various substances from the dark net and reselling them to his customers locally.
The suspect was arrested as part of an international law enforcement operation. Operation Onymous, a joint police action between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Europol, and local authorities, resulted in the bust of the Silk Road 2.0 Marketplace. Several other websites and forums were seized by investigators, including the Hydra Marketplace, Cloud Nine Marketplace, and the Hidden Wiki. The law enforcement action was concluded in 24 hours, and not only resulted in the bust of several dark net sites, but the arrest of the admins, numerous vendors and customers.
Paiva was one of the customers of the Silk Road 2.0 marketplace. The suspect was identified as a purchaser of a significant quantity of various narcotics, including MDMA, 25i-NBOMe, DMT, LSD, AL-LAD, mescaline, and liquid mushrooms. The investigation revealed that the 30-year-old ordered the drugs between 2013 and 2016. According to a press release on justice.gov, the man converted cash into bitcoins in order to make purchases on the dark web. Paiva distributed the previously listed substances, along with heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
“Drug traffickers who believe that the dark web and cryptocurrency will provide anonymity and shield them from the rule of law are sorely mistaken,” Acting U.S. Attorney Birge said in a statement. “The federal government has the tools, resources, and commitment to identify and prosecute criminals on the dark web and will continue to do so.”
Law enforcement authorities arrested Paiva in 2016 after investigators identified and gathered enough evidence from the information connected to Operation Onymous. The case was investigated by the West Michigan Enforcement Team (WEMET), U.S. Homeland Security’s Grand Rapids office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“We value this partnership, and it was successful in this investigation and others in the past,” said Detective Lt. Andy Fias, WEMET section commander. “The disruption of this drug trafficking organization will have a deep impact on several West Michigan communities.”
According to official court documents, the suspect placed 29 orders on the Silk Road 2.0 Marketplace, purchasing more than $11,000 worth of narcotics, which he used and distributed to his customers. According to the prosecution, the advisory sentencing guidelines (ranging from 37 to 46 months in prison) did not reflect the “sophistication of his scheme or involvement in distributing common drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine.”
Steve Francis, the acting special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Detroit, said that “criminals have the false impression that their black market activity using digital currency like Bitcoin are avoiding scrutiny.”
According to Paul Mitchell, defending Paiva, his client grew up in a good home environment with his mother, stepfather, and sister. However, the suspect was involved in the drug subculture for a long time. His life came to a turning point, when his father, Arthur Paiva, was convicted in 2007 of the rape and murder of college student Janet Chandler back in 1979.
“This came as a complete shock to the family and especially to Mike and Jamie Paiva,” Mitchell wrote. “Needless to say, this catastrophic turn of events would seem to have thrust Michael into the aforementioned subculture. It is of course quite possible that that was going to happen regardless of any intervening trauma, however, these circumstance, could not have helped to steer Michael away from a culture that was not only destructive but illegal.”
The attorney added that the father’s conviction to his children was traumatic. While the suspect’s sister focused on her career and made a decent job in nursing, Michael “pursued the dark web”. According to the lawyer, people can react to trauma in different ways.
The father, who died in prison four years ago, was among the six Wackenhut Corp. security guards convicted of killing Chandler. The guards were staying at the Blue Mill Inn in Holland during the strike at the Chemtron plant. The victim was abducted by the men, raped, and strangled. After the strike at the plant ended, the guards went back to their homes. That’s the reason why Arthur Paiva was only convicted in 2007 for a crime he committed in 1979.
The Grand Rapids Federal Court sentenced Michael Carlton Paiva to 30 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy to distribute controlled substances using virtual currency and the dark web.