In January 2019, a grand jury returned a 21-count indictment charging five individuals for an assortment of drug trafficking crimes. According to the indictment, the conspirators sold millions of fentanyl-laced oxycodone pills on Dream Market and Empire Market.

Khlari Sirotkin, Kelly Stephens, (Colorado), Sean Deaver, Abby Jones, (Nevada), and Sasha Sirotkin (California) each face all 21 charges listed in the recently unsealed indictment. All five alleged members of the drug trafficking operation played a role in what United States Attorneys called “one of the most prolific online drug trafficking organizations in the United States.”

According to the indictment, the group (DTO) sold millions of fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills through Dream Market and Empire Market under the usernames “Pill-Cosby” and “Slanggang.” In addition to the fentanyl, the group allegedly distributed heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine. Over the course of the operation, the conspirators allegedly laundered nearly three million dollars.

Khlari Sirotkin | Butler County Jail

Postal Inspector in Charge Tommy Coke:

“Battling the distribution of synthetic drugs via the U.S. Mail is one of the Postal Inspection Service’s highest priorities. This case proves Postal Inspectors and our law enforcement partners remain steadfast in dismantling organizations which are distributing these illicit and dangerous drugs across the U.S. This case involved hard work and dedication from multiple field divisions for both the USPIS and our partners. We will remain unwavering in our mission to identify and disrupt their illegal activity.”

As of March 30, 2019, Pill-Cosby on Dream had 5,400 confirmed marketplace transactions with a 4.86/5.00 vendor profile rating. As of June 2, 2019, Slanggang on Dream had 1 ,150 confirmed marketplace transactions with a 4.87/5.00 vendor profile rating. As of October 8, 2019, Pill-Cosby on Empire had 684 confirmed marketplace transactions with a 99.84% positive feedback rating. And finally, as of October 8, 2019, Slanggang on Empire had 1,053 confirmed marketplace transactions with a 99.45% positive feedback rating.

The indictment described an investigation into the DTO by Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement (JCODE). JCODE includes agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Department of Defense, Defense Intelligence Agency; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; US Department of Homeland Security; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Department of Justice and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

 

During the course of the investigation, law enforcement conducted undercover purchases from the DTO's vendor accounts on both darkweb marketplaces mentioned in the indictment. Law enforcement also examined thousands of WhatsApp messages sent by the members of the DTO. One WhatsApp group included Stephens, Sirotkin, and Deaver and contained more than 2,000 incriminating messages. During the session, Stephens asked if another “account” could be established, referring to another dark web vendor account. Stephens later stated that “we” should use the account, which referred to the Pill-Cosby account. Sirotkin shared the account number of a Wells Fargo account under Deaver's name. Stephens stated she deposited “it” into the Wells Fargo account. Months later, in the same group chat, Sirotkin told Stephens something about the only active ingredient in the counterfeit oxycodone pills. Stephens responded, “Why? I though it doesn't matter about the cops?” and “They cant's see my texts.”

Sean Deaver | Butler County Jail

Sean Deaver | Butler County Jail

 

 

In another group that included Stephens and Sirotkin, law enforcement found evidence that provided an estimate of the DTO's monthly income. In the group chat, Sirotkin said that “we'll go over to Nightmare and get the ones that are on there real quick and then we'll go over to Empire.” On June 12, 2019, Sirotkin said he is earning $20,000 monthly and has 8,000 30mg counterfeit oxycodone pills. He added, “l got another brick that'll make me another $300,000 + that doesn't even include my grow.”

Khlari Sirotkin, the alleged operator of at least one of the Slanggang accounts, served as the leader of the DTO, according to the indictment. During the investigation into the Sirotkin brothers, the FBI also investigated their mother, Demetra Isbell. The mother's name appeared multiple times during the investigation. In one example, the FBI explained that Khlari Sirotkin had purchased material for “counterfeit drug manufacturing, packaging, distribution and the concealment of cryptocurrency” through an Amazon account registered to his mother. In another, investigators subpoenaed Coinbase for a list of accounts associated with the co-conspirators and received an account registered to Isbell in response (along with accounts registered to other co-conspirators as well). Isbell has not been charged with any crimes in connection with the case.

 

Although law enforcement has not released information about the parts of the investigation usually covered by this site in similar cases, they revealed that undercover purchases and package profiling led to the arrest of a number of the co-conspirators. With access to the bank account information and Coinbase transaction data, investigators also had evidence linking drug payments to personal bank accounts of certain members of the conspiracy.

All five defendants were arrested in December.

The narcotics conspiracy in this case is punishable by 10 years up to life in prison. The money laundering conspiracy is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Individual counts of distributing and attempting to distribute fentanyl or heroin also carry potential maximum penalties of 20 years in prison. Selling counterfeit drugs is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

In a usual darkweb drug distribution case, the sentence is much less severe than the statutory maximum. This case involves a drug trafficking organization responsible for the distribution of millions of counterfeit oxycodone pills over the course of six years. This is not a usual case.