Three people were recently arrested in a sizable drug bust conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The suspects, hailing from Southern California, were allegedly operating their business using dark web markets to sell cocaine and methamphetamine to users around the U.S.
The trio allegedly concealed the drugs in children’s toys and then shipped the toys using post offices around the country.
These sales were executed through different darknet markets, including Silk Road and AlphaBay, where they would receive payment in cryptocurrency as a more anonymous way of managing illicit sales.
A Nationwide Narcotics Operation
The three men that were arrested recently—Anh Pham, Joseph Michael Gifford and Carlos Miguel Gallardo—were allegedly running a major drug ring that was discovered in joint efforts by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The news about the drug bust was initially published by OC Weekly, a newspaper in Orange County. According to the report, the nationwide narcotics operation was centered in Southern California.
The toys that the men were allegedly shipping through the U.S. Postal Service were packed with drugs, or more precisely cocaine and methamphetamine.
The DEA received information by a confidential informant that used to sell drugs to one of the arrested men, Pham.
The informant began working with the DEA and the FBI in attempts to reduce his punishment, which was appointed to Pham’s former drug supplier as a result of violating his terms of probation from a prison sentence.
Despite the motive, the source provided the agencies with sufficient information about the drug transactions.
Undercover agents from the DEA, backed up by the FBI, were onto this operation for two years, in 2017 and 2018.
They were investigating the dark web markets on which the drug dealers were operating. Among the reported locations were Silk Road and AlphaBay, two now-defunct darknet markets.
The federal agents were also using hidden police cameras to keep the three suspects under surveillance outside their residence.
2 Suspects Pleaded Guilty
Pham, who is considered to be the drug ring leader by investigators, and his accomplice, Gifford, pleaded guilty soon after their arrest in hopes that they would get lower sentences for their charges.
The maximum punishment for their crimes could potentially sentence them to life in prison, together with a hefty fine of up to $10 million or the total amount of profit done through their drug sales, depending on which amount is bigger.
Gallardo, the third suspect that was arrested in the operation, has not made a plea yet.
The trio allegedly stored the drugs in Pham’s warehouse in Hawaiian Gardens, California, where he also resided.
They reportedly used the area to pack the cocaine and methamphetamine into the toys as well. From there, they shipped the items to buyers in several different destinations.
The drugs were packed not only in children’s toys, but also in boxes of chocolate, lunchboxes and even inflatable items such as children’s pool rings and beach balls.
Their case will be administered by the U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter.
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