A former AlphaBay vendor has been hit by a court sentence that would see him spend the rest of his life in prison.
The Bethlehem man was reportedly convicted for distributing a monumental amount of packages containing synthetic drugs.
Jeremy Achey was implicated in a fentanyl drug overdose case involving his 24-year old client.
He is said to have sold a synthetic analogue of fentanyl to the woman who met her death following consumption of the deadly substance.
The sentence came after a Federal jury in the State of Florida convicted the dark web drug vendor at the end of January 2018.
He was accused of running a darknet drug distribution network using the pseudonym “Etiking.”
Interestingly, Achey had established himself as one of the most successful dark web drug dealers. He operated through AlphaBay, a seasoned darknet marketplace that had thrived on the sale of illicit goods and services.
Darknet Markets and Tor
Essentially, darknet markets are usually accessed through The Onion Router (Tor), a free-to-download encryption mechanism that keeps the dark web afloat.
The complaint levelled against Achey indicated that the encryption tool serves to hide users’ identities and their digital tracks from law enforcement agencies.
It was revealed that Tor, created in the 90s by the U.S Naval Research Laboratory, was used by Achey to conduct his dark web activities.
The tool was originally intended to serve the purpose of protecting covert communications by intelligence agencies.
The criminal complaint highlighted the fact that this system is currently being applied by online crime syndicates to perpetrate dark web crimes from drug sales to fraud.
Furthermore, the complaint implicated Bitcoin as the choice currency that is used by the darknet market community to launder proceeds.
Adolphus Wright, a special agent in charge of Miami’s drug enforcement, commented on the matter by warning the proponents of the dark web from thinking that they may seek refuge in the hidden web while orchestrating drug crimes.
In the same breath, he promised a heavy price for those individuals that would be caught distributing narcotics through the online platforms.
Achey was the last individual to operate Etiking, an AlphaBay vendor account. Achey bought the account from a person that would turn out to be an informer for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
It is reported that Achey had purchased the account along with a significant amount of furanylfentanyl, one of the most popular illicit substances traded on the dark web. The activities of the informer led the DEA agents to locate and arrest Achey in June 2017.
The arrest was the product of careful surveillance by the agents who are reported to have trailed Achey’s freight packages.
His eventual arrest was followed by a Pennsylvania court order to extradite Achey to face trial in the State of Florida.
Arguably, it can be deduced that Achey was a highly elusive individual that operated under the police radar. It wasn’t until the aforementioned client’s drug overdose case that Etiking’s exploits became fully exposed.
Criminal Complaint Against Achey
As reported, the 24-year-old Florida woman had purchased the dangerous drugs from Etiking via AlphaBay. The woman’s spouse had also consumed the drugs, but did not overdose. This incident lifted the lid on Etiking’s criminal life.
The victim’s spouse cooperated with police in the prosecution case against the established AlphaBay drug dealer.
The prosecution team claimed that Etiking’s drug sales had directly caused about 20 lives in drug overdose cases due to the fact that Etiking dealt in a very lethal range of drugs traded on the darknet market.
Specifically, his business facilitated the sale of research chemicals that included furanylfentanyl, tetrahydrofuran fentanyl, and etizolam.
In an interesting twist, the 2017 criminal complaint filed against Achey highlighted some complications in the case.
The document acknowledged the drug tetrahydrofuran fentanyl as a synthetic opiate that had not been scheduled. At that stage, it was not possible to ascertain whether the synthetic opiate was classified as a controlled substance or not.
Nevertheless, the prosecution lodged an argument that described the drug as an analogue of the Schedule II drug fentanyl. The Achey case took a historic turn owing to the fact that this specific fentanyl analogue was directed to be subject to the Federal Analogue Act of 1986.
According to this Act, unscheduled drugs subject to the Controlled Substances Act are regarded as scheduled if they are traded for human or animal use and are found to be structurally similar to a substance categorized in Schedule I or II of the same Act.
In this aspect, the police were successful in using the spouse of the deceased Florida woman to prove that the vendor was well-aware that the drugs were being purchased for human use.
This vindication was achieved when the spouse communicated with Etiking through messages regarding drug sales.
In fact, it was shown that Etiking went the extra mile to advise his clients on the appropriate ways of administering the fentanyl analogues to their body systems.
Nonetheless, the prosecution team did not press charges against Achey for dealing in etizolam, which was among the substances that led to the death of the Florida woman.
Instead, Achey found himself in deep trouble over the 4-ACO-DMT drug that he had unknowingly sent to law enforcement agents who had bought the substance over AlphaBay. 4-ACO-DMT is an analogue of DMT and psilocin, which are classified as Schedule I drugs.
Achey’s sentence was iconic and highlighted the dire consequences that are faced by dark web drug dealers.
It was also filled with several intrigues that proved just how darknet drug crimes have developed over the years and destroyed lives through the opioid crisis.
The severity of his sentence goes a long way to underscore the government’s commitment to fighting the drug trade.
But How Dire Is the Current Opioid Crisis?
The United States is currently battling the worst drug crisis in the country’s history.
It has been documented that more than fifty thousand Americans lost their lives to drugs in 2015 alone.
Statistically, this phenomenon is considered to be a 300% increase from the beginning of this century.
The drug crisis has mainly been fueled by the distribution and consumption of dangerous opioids that have been found to kill one hundred Americans daily.
The death toll of drug overdose cases, coupled with adverse bodily harm, has been said to be so devastating that they have surpassed the statistics recorded at the prime of the AIDS epidemic.
The opioid crisis is attributable to several causes. The first cause was the indiscriminate prescription of opioid analgesics to patients.
These prescriptions were typically issued for genuine medical reasons, but some medical practitioners erred by prescribing insane amounts of opioid analgesics to patients with no consideration to their actual therapeutic needs.
This problem was identified and the government stepped in, through policies, to restore sanity in the medical field.
Sadly, government interventions have largely failed to combine their primary efforts with endeavors to engage persons that are already facing opioid use disorder.
It is unfortunate that opioid addiction compels its sufferers to turn to the cheap, accessible and more potent opioid alternatives that are available on darknet markets.
Many individuals that live with opioid addiction have been found to exist in isolation from the mainstream healthcare system. Consequently, they end up forming the statistics of drug overdose deaths regarding dark web-sourced opioids.
In the wake of the year 2008, the devastation brought by heroin use was greatly felt in the suburbs and rural societies.
The government responded by stepping up efforts in the fight against the drug trade.
This fight was approached through the scaling up of law enforcement staffing and the funding of operations targeting the US-Mexico border. It is at this point that the amount of busted heroin increased fourfold from 2008 to 2015.
Within the borders, law enforcement agencies liaised with the courts to impose harsh penalties for criminals and increased incarceration within the context of drug dealing.
Unfortunately, these moves seemed ineffective in preventing the aggravation of the worst drug crisis in US history.
Opioids and Darknet Markets
The beginning of 2014 saw a transformation in the US drug crisis. The darknet markets played a significant role in the sale and distribution of heroin and counterfeit pills.
The dark web-sourced drugs were notably altered with illegal synthetic opioids, predominantly fentanyl analogues.
Fentanyl can be easily and economically manufactured. It has been reported that the US fentanyl market is mainly supplied by China and is distributed via darknet marketplaces.
The statistics surrounding fentanyl-related deaths are surreal. From 2014 to 2015, a period of only one year, it is reported that fatalities caused by fentanyl analogues increased by more than 72% to about 10,000.
The additional emerging statistical figures and episodic upsurges of fentanyl-related deaths depict a country that is down on its knees on drugs.
Ideally, interagency interventions and continuous social monitoring would be necessary for ensuring that criminals like Jeremy Achey are brought to book and that the opioid crisis is solved once and for all.
Tackling the Opioid Crisis
Like all crises, the current opioid crisis should be tackled by using both long-term and short-term approaches.
In the short term, civic education would be important to help in preventing overdose-related deaths in the community.
Naloxone should be accessed easily as a treatment intervention for rehabilitating drug victims. This is especially important for patients who are compelled to abstain from substance abuse.
In the long term, sound policies should be developed to solve social issues that may increase people’s propensity to drug abuse.
Such social issues include unemployment, unsatisfactory access to mental health care services, and the overall market demand.
Otherwise, law enforcement agencies must advance their crackdown on dark web drug lords that have been instrumental in creating the deplorable opioid crisis.
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