A United States District Judge in New York sentenced the father and son behind a dark web vendor account responsible for at least one non-lethal overdose and more than 100 separate fentanyl and oxycodone transactions. Both men were sentenced to five years in federal prison, a period of supervised release, and forfeitures of all Bitcoin earned during their drug trafficking operation.
Michael and Philip Luciano, a father and son from Staten Island, New York, sold fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and oxycodone to customers over the dark web and in person. According to the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey S. Berman, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan accepted plea agreements from both of the defendants that they had signed in late August. Although the factual statements in the agreement detailed the distribution of fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and oxycodone, both men only pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance analogue.
According to the statements made in the plea agreement and information revealed in the criminal complaint, the father-son duo launched their drug distribution operation in January 2015. They continued to sell opioids until international law enforcement agencies seized Alphabay servers in July 2017. Days after the former Attorney General of the United States had announced the Alphabay takedown, Homeland Security Investigations raided the Lucianos’ home and arrested both defendants on charges of possession with intent to distribute and conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and oxycodone. The duo, investigators had learned, had been selling on Alphabay under the username “Zane61.”
Investigators learned about the Luciano operation after raiding and arresting the two individuals behind “PeterTheGreat,” another Alphabay fentanyl and fentanyl analogue vendor. PeterTheGreat had been keeping printed records of every transaction made on Alphabay and other dark web marketplaces. The lists included the name of the customer’s account on Alphabay, the amount of substance ordered, and the customer’s address. One of PeterTheGreat’s repeat customers lived at the address where Michael and Philip Luciano were living. According to the criminal complaint, the account used by the Luciano partners had purchased butyryl fentanyl on numerous occasions. The account (vendors on most marketplaces are not able to buy and sell with the same account) appeared on the transaction list for fentanyl and butyryl fentanyl more times than the average drug user appeared on the same list.
This led to an investigation into the account owner and people who had been living at the Staten Island address. PeterTheGreat was not the sole supplier for the products sold by Zane61, though. The account primarily listed fentanyl products that had been legally prescribed to Michael Luciano and fentanyl analogues that Philip Luciano had purchased from a bulk supplier in China. Homeland Security Investigations intercepted a package of a fentanyl analogue from China that a supplier had shipped to the address registered to Michael Luciano. Special Agents with Homeland Security Investigations, Postal Inspectors with the United States Postal Inspection Service, and officers with the New York Police Department conducted a controlled delivery and subsequent raid at Michael Luciano’s house. At the house, they found various illegal substances, shipping supplies, and electronic evidence of the conspiracy. Text messages incriminated both the father and the son. Cell phones had pictures of the products that matched the pictures on the Alphabay account. The “Notes” application on an iPad detailed the entire operation and contained passwords for the Alphabay account and private key.
Originally, investigators learned, the Luciano duo had only distributed fentanyl to customers in person. They switched to selling through the dark web in 2016 and cut contact with all but one of their local customers. The one local customer purchased from Philip Luciano even after overdosing on fentanyl. Paramedics had to revive the man with Narcan. While in the hospital, the customer texted Philip Luciano, asking if he could pick more fentanyl up the following day. This was a key part of U.S. Attorney Berman’s announcement about the prison sentences passed down to both the father and son.
“The defendants’ dangerous fentanyl distribution contributed to a victim’s overdose. Fortunately, the victim survived,” the U.S. Attorney said. He added, “After this overdose, the defendants continued to deal drugs, using the dark web – a place where some criminals think they can hide – to sell fentanyl and oxycodone, two highly addictive and potentially lethal opioids.”