In Cape Girardeau, Missouri, the Drug Enforcement Agency arrested a Joshua J. Kelly, a well known beheld on Alphabay. On May 11, 2017 law enforcement raided his shop, Heady Warez smoke shop after the DEA investigated a vendor known as “ustous.” Responses, thus far, have a unique element about them—one that does not come with many drug vendor arrests—at least within the crypto market community.
Not even a month since the opioid vendor PeterTheGreat landed in jail, the feds busted another opioid vendor. There is no denying that law enforcement is cracking down on opioid sellers, both on and off the streets. However, ustous’s arrest may simply have been the fruit of an investigation from a low-hanging branch.
To understand Kelly better, one needs to go back to 2011. On Friday, March 4, a Missouri news website published news concerning the arrest of a man for “a string of thefts,” among numerous other crimes.
“An East Cape Girardeau, Ill., man has been arrested on weapons and drug charges following a string of thefts in Missouri and Illinois, law enforcement officials said Thursday afternoon. Joshua J. Kelly, 25, has been charged with eight counts of possession of stolen firearms and the unlawful production of more than 30 marijuana plants, according to Alexander County State’s Attorney Jeffrey Ferris.” (Emphasis added by the author)
The investigation into Kelly as a dark web began in 2015 when the DEA bought drugs from ustous. They analyzed shipping records and discovered that Kelly hardly, if at all, separated himself from the shipping stage. The documents never mentioned how law enforcement connected an IP address to the vendor vendor account, but they did exactly that.
Charter Communications received a subpoena for details of the IP address location and owner. Unsurprisingly, at this point, the IP linked to Kelly’s business in Cape Girardeau, Heady Warez. Heady Warez, his smoke shop, was also listed as his residential and mailing address.
According to a DEA agent, “records of Kelly’s personal eBay account show he previously purchased a tablet press, powder mixers and die molds for painkillers oxycodone and Norco, plus Xanax.”
An unconfirmed report from a former Heady Warez customer explained that Kelly and his “business partners” openly discussed their online activity during store hours. During store hours with customers in the building. Several local individuals reported that one of his pills killed a woman he dated.
Kelly sold a very, very wide assortment of drugs. Literally. His so-called “formulas” might not even be reproducible. He sold several pill formulas and provided descriptions for what the pill contained. For instance, someone reported that he sold one pill that contained a mixture of “fent with meth, mdma, a benzo, and cocaine.”
However, users reported that Kelly never mislead customers. He sold what he sold intentionally, with “good” intentions. (I.e., he used the mixtures as a source of income—as mixtures themselves. Cocaine, for instance, was not “cut” with fentanyl, methamphetamine, MDMA, and benzodiazepines.) That mixture was an intentional product that Kelly prided himself for concocting. He sold “Mystery Mixes” too, to be fair. For those, he provided the buyer with a list of what the drug could be.
But, he advertised some blends as “resell quality.”
An end was in sight when the DEA looked through the suspect’s trash:
“In August 2016, DEA agents recovered pieces of evidence from Heady Warez’s trash, including “26 pieces of paper with various handwritten acronyms, colors and numbers, such as ‘10 yellow Benz,’ ‘85 Xan,’ ‘10 OC 40 orange,’ ‘6 D&G,’” which closely resembled online drug listings posted by “USTOUS” for benzodiazepine and alprazolam, both psychoactive drugs, and oxycodone, Infante wrote.”
Well, it seemed as if an end was close by, but the arrest occurred much later. Officers built a case against Kelly until May 2017. Homeland Security Investigations agents found a package en route to his mother’s address that contained die molds and pieces of a pill press for oxycodone pills.
They then arrested the man on the charges of conspiracy to distribute MDMA, alpha-PVP, oxycodone, heroin, fentanyl, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Investigators found $42,161.62 of illicit revenue—part, he stored in the business account for his smokeshop and in his personal savings account.
According to the lead DEA agent:
“Kelly waived his right to a preliminary hearing in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District, and requested any preliminary or detention hearings be held in the Southern District of Florida, thereby consenting to appear in the charging district, according to court filings.”