Two California men have been selling cocaine and marijuana through several accounts on at least one darkweb marketplace, according to information revealed in an eleven-count indictment returned in October. The suspected darkweb drug dealers were targeted by the Northern California Illicit Digital Economy Task Force as part of an ongoing investigation into online drug trafficking.
Eddy Steven Sandoval Lopez, age 22, and Deshari Saivohn Frederick, age 21, have been charged with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and distribution of a controlled substance. Frederick, in addition to the drug charges, was indicted on one count of the use of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. On October 11, 2018, a federal grand jury returned the indictment that contained all charges mentioned in a press release on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California.
The Northern California Illicit Digital Economy Task Force (NCIDE), a relatively new investigative body, launched the investigation in June 2018. So new, in fact, that Lopez and Frederick were the first and only suspected drug dealers arrested as part of a NCIDE investigation. According to United States Attorney McGregor W. Scott, NCIDE was assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) task force. Both NCIDE and J-CODE investigated Lopez and Frederick as part of a larger investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).
During an October hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Grant Rabenn said that the case began in June after federal investigators conducted an undercover purchase of 14 grams of cocaine from a vendor on Dream Market. The vendor the law enforcement agents ordered from, the court documents revealed, was the Dream Market vendor “COKEWAVE.” As the username indicates, the vendor sold primarily (if not exclusively) cocaine at different weights. Although the account is now in “vacation mode” without any product listings, the ratings are still visible. As of the last login, COKEWAVE had 740 reviews and a 4.82 rating.
Law enforcement received the cocaine in roughly 10 days. The package had the address of an Arden Way store as the return address. According to information in the criminal complaint, the duo frequently used return addresses of existing businesses such as Hobby Lobby or Amazon. The package contained two sealed bags of cocaine with a combined weight of more than 14 grams.
During the investigation, four more orders were placed from accounts that Lopez and Frederick allegedly controlled. Law enforcement placed orders for more cocaine and for orders for marijuana. COKEWAVE, of course, would not have been an appropriate marijuana dealer. But Lopez and Frederick allegedly controlled both “HerbanFarmer” and “SafeDealsDirect.” Both accounts listed marijuana or marijuana products such as edibles. SafeDealsDirect sold both marijuana and cocaine products. The SafeDealsDirect account, under the “Terms and Conditions” header, noted that something had happened to their operation.
“We are temporarily closing down shop due to some unforeseen circumstances,” the account owner wrote. “[The] good news is that no data has been compromised and we are working on refunding customers on products we have not yet shipped.” They also wrote that they could come back under another alias.
Law enforcement monitored Post Offices in Sacramento where the vendors packages had entered the mail stream. They saw security footage showing one of the suspects depositing “several handfuls of USPS parcels into the blue collection bins.” Each drop involved several trips to and from the suspected vendor’s vehicle. NCIDE then obtained a warrant that permitted the placement of a GPS tracking device on the cars used by both suspects. On October 2, agents executed search warrants at the homes owned by Lopez and Frederick. Law enforcement reportedly seized cocaine, marijuana, and bulk packaging. They also found a stolen Ruger pistol in Frederick’s house.
The charges in the indictment carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. With plea agreements, receiving a sentence even close to that length would be unusual. Both men are free on $50,000 bonds. The prosecutor pointed out that either suspect could have hidden cryptocurrency, but Assistant Federal Defender Tim Zindel told the court that no evidence of hidden cryptocurrency existed.
After leaving the courtroom, he told reporters “the dispensary [nearby] probably sells more in an hour than these guys did in months.” He added that the above statement was only true if people believed the defendants were guilty of selling anything at all.