In August, one of the two defendants arrested for selling fentanyl on the dark web pleaded guilty to four felonies connected to fentanyl and opioid trafficking. The second defendant, although named in an original criminal complaint, will not be indicted as a co-conspirator. After the second defendant’s arrest, a judge allowed the pre-trial release of both defendants. The second defendant took her own life not long after her release.
At the request of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland, a multi-agency investigated a dark web vendor responsible for selling fentanyl and carfentanil to buyers on an undisclosed dark web market. Although the criminal complaints lacked information connecting either defendant to a specific dark web market or vendor account on said dark web market, a recent press release from the Department of Justice officials in Cleveland, Ohio, identified the primary defendant—and the now-deceased individual—of selling fentanyl under the name “MotleyFool.” The officials did not reveal the market MotleyFool sold fentanyl on, but all information indicates that MotleyFool was an Alphabay vendor.
James Halpin, a 31-year-old from Norwood, Ohio, admitted to counts one, two, three, and four of a criminal information filed on July 8, 2018, in response to a preferred guilty plea provided by Halpin. The criminal information also reflected the absence of Grace Bosworth, a now-deceased business owner from Norwood who had admitted, according to court documents, her role in a dark web fentanyl distribution conspiracy. The documents also indicated that Bosworth had explored possible pre-indictment arrangements with both her attorney and the prosecution.
Halpin admitted to Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances. The conspiracy charge accused Halpin of working with the “named but not indicted” Bosworth to distribute fentanyl and carfentanil from January 2017 to June 2017. Officials acknowledged that the conspiracy likely lasted longer than the six month period in the complaint, but the prosecution lacked any evidence to back up the claim—meaning the claim was nothing more than speculation.
He also admitted to Distribution of Carfentanil, Fentanyl, and Furanyl Fentanyl Mixture. The charge stemmed from one of many undercover purchases made by Homeland Security Investigations during the investigation into MotleyFool. The specific purchase used as the basis of the charge occurred on May 30, 2017. Counts three and four of the criminal information accused Halpin of Attempted Distribution of Carfentanil, Fentanyl, and Furanyl Fentanyl Mixture. Both charges stemmed from events on June 7, 2017, that resulted in the arrest of both Halpin and Bosworth at perhaps one of the best moments law enforcement could have arrested both (then) suspected fentanyl dealers.
Homeland Security Investigations, with assistance from the United States Postal Inspection Service, had traced a number of packages of fentanyl or carfentanil back a Post Office in Ohio where many of the packages had originated. A Postal Inspector learned that the vendor had been shipping packages to three Post Offices in the Greater Cincinnati area. From, one, court documents revealed, the Postal Inspector identified as many as 30 outgoing packages that matched the profile of packages ordered by undercover federal investigators.
Although often dismissed as a form of parallel construction, court documents claimed that the handwriting on the packages was compared with other official documents and that it matched Bosworth’s signature on her divorce filings. Postal Inspectors then monitored incoming packages with Bosworth’s name or address. One package, on June 6, contained five grams of a mixture of fentanyl, carfentanil, and furanyl fentanyl. The package had been shipped from Canada. The United States Postal Service notified Bosworth of the package’s arrival at the Post Office. The next day, Halpin arrived at the Post Office to ship dozens of packages and to pick up the package for Bosworth. Federal authorities and local law enforcement arrested Halpin at the Post Office.
Moments later, after receiving the green light, other federal agents raided Bosworth’s house and found her in possession of fentanyl, shipping material, a computer signed into a dark web vendor profile, and other incriminating material. Both suspected drug traffickers independently told investigators that the other suspect had masterminded the operation. Halpin, a heavy user of fentanyl, told authorities that Bosworth simply paid him to drop off and pick up packages in exchange for small quantities of fentanyl. He claimed he did not know what the packages had contained.
Bosworth claimed that she knew of the operation but only packaged drugs for Halpin in exchange for fentanyl for her personal use. She said Halpin had created the dark web vendor account, arranged deals with suppliers, dealt with customers, and dropped off packages. She admitted she packaged fentanyl and that she prepared the packages for shipment.
Ultimately, the government dropped the charges against Bosworth after she ended her life and Halpin admitted to running the operation. He will be sentenced in November of this year.