A St. Petersburg, Florida, man has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute fentanyl through the Alphabay darknet marketplace, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady said in an August announcement. According to court documents and the announcements on the website for the United States Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Pennsylvania, the defendant sold several illegal drugs, including fentanyl and carfentanil, under the username “Gman19635.” He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a statutory maximum of 40 years in prison on the first charge.
A Pennsylvania grand jury returned a four-count indictment on August 1, 2017, charging Robert M. Gilner, 30, with conspiracy to distribute more than 400 grams of fentanyl and a quantity of carfentanil; distribution of a quantity of methamphetamine; distribution of a quantity of carfentanil; and distribution of MDMA. The first charge covers fentanyl and carfentanil distribution over a period of four months: December 2016 through April 2017. The second, third, and fourth charges reflect individual sales on March 10, 2017, and March 22, 2017.
Gilner, according to court documents, was arrested in the Middle District of Florida on August 4, 2017 and arraigned in the Western District of Pennsylvania on August 22, 2017. Two days after unsealing the Gilner indictment, Acting United States Attorney Soo C. Song announced that Homeland Security Investigations, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and local police had raided and arrested four men in the Western District of Pennsylvania on suspicion of fentanyl and carfentanil trafficking. Although the arrests have have not been explicitly connected to Gilner’s case, the men were identified as bulk fentanyl and fentanyl analogue suppliers with a vague connection to Gilner under the scope of a specific investigation into dark web fentanyl dealers.
“Gman19635 is the fifth defendant investigated and charged in Western Pennsylvania since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of the Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) initiative in Pittsburgh earlier this year,” United States Attorney Scott Brady said. “Through our office’s expertise in opioids and cybercrime, we are aggressively targeting drug trafficking of fentanyl and other opioids on the Darknet.”
Only days ago, U.S. Attorney Brady announced that a man from Euclid, Ohio, pleaded guilty to fentanyl distribution through both Alphabay and Dream dark web marketplaces. Antoin Austin, 28, sold fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and MDMA under the username “Darking22.” U.S. Attorney Brady noted that Austin was “…one of the first defendants in the country to be investigated, charged and convicted…” under the Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement initiative. Unlike Gilner, Austin was charged with fentanyl distribution outside of Pennsylvania. The case was transferred to the Western District of Pennsylvania for the purposes of the plea agreement.
Although Gilner pleaded guilty to four crimes, the plea did not completely match the charges in the indictment. The plea remained materially consistent, though; the primary difference was the somewhat substantial decrease in severity of the first count. Gilner admitted conspiring with others to distribute 40 grams of a mixture containing fentanyl and a quantity of carfentanil instead of the original charge in the indictment: conspiracy to distribute more than 400 grams of the same.
In exchange for his guilty plea, Assistant United States Attorney Shardul S. Desai will recommend a two-level downward adjustment for the acceptance of responsibility (pleading guilty) and an additional level by default. According to the announcement made by U.S. Attorney Brady, Gilner faces a mandatory prison sentence of not less than five years and up to life, depending on the judge’s decision. United States District Judge Cathy Bissoon scheduled a sentencing hearing for January 17, 2019. The Probation Office was ordered to forward Gilner and his counsel a copy of the Presentence Report by November 21, 2018.