After announcing the arrest of the largest fentanyl vendor in the United States, the United States federal government unsealed the court documents detailing the arrest of the third largest dark web fentanyl vendor. Although the man was arrested in January, United States officials waited until after the man had committed suicide to announce his arrest.
In a sworn affidavit in support of a criminal complaint, a Postal Inspector with the United States Postal Inspection Service outlined the case against a Canadian man named Robert Kiessling. Kiessling, according to the United States Department of Justice, was the third largest fentanyl vendor on the darknet living in North America. The United States will never prove Kiessling sold drugs on the darknet, though. After a judge released Kiessling on bond, he ended his life in Canada. United States courts, as a general rule, drop charges against a defendant if said defendant dies before the case closes. No standard exists for unindicted defendants, but courts often close the case for obvious reasons.
The Postal Inspector, Michael Adams, wrote that he had been working alongside Homeland Security Investigations and the Border Enforcement Security Task Force at the Cleveland Field Office of the Pittsburgh Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service during the investigation into Kiessling. The team had been working on cases of a similar nature and Postal Inspector Adams wrote that he had experience working undercover online for the purpose of catching drug dealers. He had also worked as the lead agent on several similar dark web drug cases.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) sent a Postal Inspector (identified only as Postal Inspector Green) and Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Michael Grote information on a dark web vendor using the name “DougFish44” and “DF44.” Through undisclosed means, the RCMP had identified the person suspected of running the DougFish44 account on Dream market. Postal Inspector Adams and other federal investigators had already learned that DougFish44 played a pivotal role in the North American fentanyl trade. However, they had primarily focused on his Alphabay account. And law enforcement had ended Alphabay in July 2017.
Canadian authorities did not hand information over to United States authorities based on the fact that certain investigators had looked into DougFish44 at an earlier date, though. Instead, the RCMP notified their United States counterparts that Kiessling had mailed a package of suspected narcotics to an individual living in Marion, Ohio. The United States Postal Service identified the Canada Xpress package and forwarded it to the Cleveland Postal Inspection Service Field Office. There, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agents and Customs and Border Protection officers opened and searched the package. The two aforementioned agencies are two of the four branches of law enforcement in the United States authorized to conduct searches without a warrant or probable cause within 100 miles of the border.
The package contained .09 grams of furanyl fentanyl. HSI S/A Grote and PI Green travelled to Marion and interviewed the intended recipient of the package. The man admitted he had ordered the furanyl fentanyl from a Dream vendor identified as DF44. The next day, S/A Grote contacted DF44 at the email address on the Dream profile and inquired about a direct deal of a larger amount of fentanyl. DF44 sent the undercover agent a Bitcoin address and requested $450 for one gram of fentanyl. The undercover agent placed the order, obtained the tracking number, and alerted the Postal Service to look for a Canada Xpress package with said tracking number.
The United States Postal Inspection Service identified the package and diverted it to a Customs and Border Protection facility. USPIS also built a profile and started intercepting packages that DF44 had shipped. The HSI S/A made undercover purchases from October 2017 and January 2018. In January, federal authorities had gathered all the evidence they thought they needed. Homeland Security Investigations Special Agents in Canada, led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, surveilled Kiessling the day after S/A Green had placed an order.
The RCMP arrested him after he placed an envelope on a counter at a Canadian Post in Kelowna. Both HSI S/A Grote and PI Green assisted the RCMP in searching Kiessling’s house. They found fentanyl, Canada Xpress packages, a laptop allegedly “displaying the Dream market user DF44,” bottles of codeine syrup, a safe filled with a stack of cash, and a scale.
United States authorities filed the criminal complaint on January 12. On January 17, Kiessling “passed away peacefully,” according to a local obituary. His case has not yet been closed, but Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Parker signed a motion to unseal the criminal complaint on August 21.