Federal agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) arrested Joshua J. Kelly on March 16 for allegedly producing and selling illegal drugs through the dark web.
Kelly owns and operates Heady Warez, a retail outlet that specializes in paraphernalia for tobacco and marijuana consumption located in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
Kelly has officially been charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.
According to the Southeast Missourian, DEA agent Lilita Infante filed a probable-cause statement detailing the accusation against Kelly, and the investigation that warranted the charges.
The report reveals that Kelly’s arrest is the result of a DEA investigation that commenced in 2015. DEA agents discovered that Kelly was distributing drugs via the dark web after they bought the drugs from him.
He was identified with the help of shipping records operated using the dark web handle “USTOUS.” Infante documented that Joshua Kelly conspired to deal a number of controlled substances including MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy), oxycodone, heroin, synthetic stimulant alpha-PVP and fentanyl (a powerful opioid).
DEA agents were able to make a connection between the dark web drug vendor ‘USTOUS’ and Heady Warez. By employing a subpoena for Charter Communications, the agents traced an IP address related to the dark web vendor to the smoke shop at 1802 Broadway.
Joshua Kelly listed this address as his residential and mailing address. DEA agents recovered crucial pieces of evidence in Kelly’s garbage back in August 2016.
According to Infante’s statement, these included 26 pieces of paper with handwritten numbers, acronyms and colors like “10 yellow Benz,”“10 OC 40 Orange,”“85 Xan,” and“6 D&G.” These writings were similar to dark web listings for psychoactive drugs including alprazolam, benzodiazepine and oxycodone posted by the vendor USTOUS.
That same month, the DEA was alerted to a package sent from Shanghai to a residence in Lynwood Hills Drive in Cape Girardeau. The tip came from a United States postal inspector and the package was sent to Kelly.
Before the arrest, his residence was placed under DEA surveillance whereby agents recovered pieces of evidence from the trash.
These finds were similar to those recovered in the garbage from Heady Warez. This operation also uncovered crucial information regarding Kelly’s dark web drug operation.
These included shipping labels connected to the shipping account that USTOUS used to send drug to DEA agents, packages from Canada and China, a syringe containing liquid THC, sealed bags with marijuana and alpha-PVP (Flakka) traces, and materials for pharmaceutical tablet production.
In addition, the case affidavit revealed that there was evidence that an individual accessed criminal dark web markets between January and March from inside Heady Warez.
It appears that Kelly’s mother could also have been involved in the operations. DEA agents tailed a moving truck from the residence in Lynwood Hills Drive to an address at Stevens Drive in Cape Girardeau in February.
This was conducted just a day after utilities in the residence were registered with the name of Joshua Kelly’s mother. Soon after Kelly’s arrest, on March 28, agents from Homeland Security Investigations intercepted a package that was addressed to Kelly’s mother.
The package contained parts of a pill press used to produce oxycodone pills as well as die molds.
Further information regarding Kelly’s mother and her supposed involvement in this drug operation is yet to surface. Kelly’s personal eBay account also implicates him in the operation.
The eBay records reveal that he bought a tablet press, die molds for oxycodone, Norco and Xanax as well as powder mixers.
A financial investigation in 2015 revealed that approximately $42,000 in the form of bitcoin exchanges was transferred to two accounts at Wood & Huston Bank—Kelly’s business checking account (Ligons & Kelly Enterprise LLC) and personal checking account.
Interestingly, this is the second case involving a smoke shop, drug operations, money laundering and a mother and son within the past month.
In a surprisingly similar case, a mother and son operating a smoke shop in Lincoln, Nebraska were charged with selling misbranded drugs and evading financial reporting.
According to court filings, Joshua Kelly has raised his right to a preliminary hearing and requested his hearings to be held in a Florida charging district.