(STL.News) – A federal grand jury has indicted five individuals alleged to be members of one of the most prolific online drug trafficking organizations in the United States. The indictment was returned and unsealed in Cincinnati.
According to the 21-count indictment, since 2013, co-conspirators used several Dark Web marketplace accounts and encrypted messaging apps in order to sell illegal drugs online.
The defendants allegedly specialized in the manufacturing and distribution of more than one million fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills and laundered approximately $2.8 million over the course of the conspiracy. The pressed fentanyl pills, along with heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine, were shipped to the Southern District of Ohio and throughout the country.
Named in the indictment are: Khlari Sirotkin, 36, of Colorado; Kelly Stephens, 32, of Colorado; Sean Deaver, 36, of Nevada; Abby Jones, 37, of Nevada; and Sasha Sirotkin, 32, of California. Each is charged in all 21 counts. Each of the five defendants was arrested in December and has appeared in federal court in Cincinnati.
The investigation was coordinated out of the Cincinnati Field Office of the FBI and is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) joint investigation conducted by the Southern Ohio Digitized Organized Crime Group. The investigation was significantly aided by the Department of Justice’s multi-agency Special Operations Division (SOD).
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. Congress sets minimum and maximum statutory sentences. Sentencing of defendants will be determined by the Court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
“It doesn’t matter to us if you’re out on the streets or behind a computer screen in the comfort of your own home – if you deal fentanyl, as is alleged here, we will identify you and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” said U.S. Attorney David M. DeVillers.
“This case demonstrates that as organized criminals leverage technologies such as the Dark Web, encrypted messaging applications, and cryptocurrencies to conceal their illegal activities, the FBI and our partners will employ sophisticated techniques, creative methods, and a joint effort to hold them accountable,” stated FBI Cincinnati Special Agent in Charge Chris Hoffman.
“Unscrupulous people who use the darknet as a marketplace for selling and distributing illegal and dangerous prescription drugs will be found,” said Special Agent in Charge Charles L. Grinstead, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Kansas City Field Office. “We are fully committed to disrupting and dismantling illegal prescription drug distribution networks that misuse the internet at the expense of public health and safety.”
“Not even the shadowy corners of the Dark Web can provide a safe haven for drug dealers,” said Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Keith Martin. “Law enforcement is committed to tracking down drug traffickers’ distribution networks no matter where they operate.”
“Battling the distribution of synthetic drugs via the U.S. Mail is one of the Postal Inspection Service’s highest priorities,” said Inspector in Charge Tommy Coke. “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.”
“These aren’t street corner drug pushers – this conspiracy allegedly infiltrated our communities and sold fentanyl in the dank depths of the internet and sent it to mailboxes and doorsteps,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. “Ohioans are safer, thanks to the work of our narcotics agents and federal partners who untangle webs of deception and death.”
David M. DeVillers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Chris Hoffman, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Division; Keith Martin, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Charles L. Grinstead, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Food and Drug Administration – Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI), Kansas City Field Office; Tommy D. Coke, Inspector in Charge, United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS); Vance Callander, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost; Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot K. Isaac; and the Ohio National Guard Counterdrug Task Force announced the charges. Criminal Chief Karl P. Kadon is representing the United States in this case.
An indictment merely contains allegations, and defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.