In February 2016, an alarming number of juveniles started checking into Slatina County Emergency Hospital after smoking unidentified “hallucinogenic substances.” Every day, the hospital saw more patients with general sickness and malaise—all usually minors or very young adults. Romania’s Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism opened an investigation into suspected narcotics trafficking finally made arrests in between May and June 2017.
The news rolled in following the announcement that DIICOT arrested two drug dealers: Dragoș Andrei Spiratos and Tudor Constantin Ernil. DIICOT and judicial police officers from the Brigade of Organized Crime in Iasi, Romania. (Every location that follows will be in Romania unless stated otherwise; some of the city or county names are shared with other countries). Officers investigated both suspects. They learned that Spiratos bought in large quantities from Ernil who in turn bought them from darknet marketplaces.
DIICOT and the organized crime officers from Iasi moved in on the duo on May 23. They received arrest warrants for several high risk drug trafficking and possession crimes. Ernil, at the time of his arrest, was picking up a package that a darknet vendor sent from the Netherlands. Law enforcement did not catch Spiratos red-handed, but it made little difference.
“Authorities from DIICOT – Territorial Service Iaşi, together with judicial police officers of the Brigade of Organized Crime Iasi, conducted eight house searches in Iasi, during which seized law enforcement seized 110 ecstasy tablets, several doses cannabis, 13 shredding plant substances and three electronic precision scales,” a DIICOT spokesperson explained.
After those eight house searches and two arrests, DIICOT announced that at least 16 other suspects were under investigation. Some, it turned out, had already been arrested.
On June 6, DIICOT announced two more arrests—Iosif Marian Grijincu and Daniel Molociniuc—both from the Rădăuţi district. Law enforcement gathered evidence against both men before the arrest. The evidence included transcripts from wiretaps and recorded phone conversations.
Another DIICOT announcement explained how Grijincu stored the packages between their arrival from darknet suppliers and the local resellers he sold to:
“In order not to risk discovering the quantities of prohibited substances trafficked to locations that would link his person and which would lead to the prosecution of his / her criminal activities and risk the arrest, Iosif Marian Grijincu stored the substances in postal boxes or storage spaces that belonged to unknowing persons. He, himself only accessed the boxes through trusted intermediaries or couriers.”
In one location, officers found 50 prepared envelopes containing a total quantity of 8.82 grams of amphetamine, 17.19 grams of cannabis, and 36 bags of “plant parts totalling 4.37 whole plants. On May 8, Officers found a larger cache in another district. The storage location contained 200 plastic bags—the bags held a combined weight of 42.45 grams of amphetamine. After a forensic analysis of the crime scene, law enforcement found Grijincu’s fingerprints on three bags.
The previous house searches, combined with some from other regions where suspects operated, resulted in the ultimate discovery for law enforcement. They found several computers, three hard drives, and eight cellphones. DIICOT officers arrested Grijincu and Molociniuc on one of the city-wide searches in May. In June, the data from the phones, hard drives, and seized documents was returned from the forensic analysis. The information led to the arrest of several more defendants: Răzvan Percec, Alexandru Huţuleac, Andrei Iulian Lungoci, and Romeo Mihăiţă Roman.
Percec, investigators said, was the boss. He made sure the sales that occurred locally were cut when his internet supplier fell through. The powdered drugs, like amphetamine, he mixed with building materials. However, the tactic he used for selling marijuana when his stock was low was the reason for the recent hospitalizations; when he marijuana supply was low or empty, Percec had the conspirators that dealt with local sales dip sage (and other, unnamed ethnobotanicals that resembled marijuana to a minor) into a container of acetone. They would then let the substance dry but not without some remnants of the acetone or a similar solvent.
Law enforcement further discovered that the crew sold—as a much smaller group and to a smaller number of people—since 2013. However, the darknet transactions did not occur until much later. In the Rădăuţi district, the leader built up a client base of more than 300 loyal customers. And the reason he managed to poison the “marijuana” for so long linked to the location where his local dealers sold: several schools in the area, mainly to 15-year-olds.
Law enforcement then executed more warrants, rounding up 16 more conspirators by the end of May. Come June 7, the number of executed warrants hit the fifties. Law enforcement is still searching for some known members of the group. So far, 22 conspirators have been identified. Charges have not been announced for the entire group yet, and some suspects were only held for 24-hours.