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Alphabay Vendor “Zane61” Pleaded Guilty to Fentanyl Distribution

On August 8, a father and son from Staten Island, New York, pleaded guilty to selling fentanyl and other opioids through the dark web. The duo sold several fentanyl analogues, oxycodone, and fentanyl itself. According to information revealed in court, the father and son also admitted selling controlled substances that led to one buyer’s non-fatal overdose.

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey S. Berman, announced that both Michael Luciano, 59, and Philip Luciano, 30, had entered a guilty plea before United States Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker in a New York court. After accepting their guilty pleas, United States Magistrate Judge Parker ordered the detention of both men until their sentence hearing on November 8, 2018. United States District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan will issue the prison sentences as outlined in both plea agreements created roughly one week before the duo officially entered a guilty plea.

Before admitting they had been distributing fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and oxycodone through the dark web, Homeland Security Investigations had gathered evidence that would likely have convicted both men if the case went to trial. As is often the case, the prosecution opted for a plea agreement that both parties agreed to only one week before the change of a plea hearing. The conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute charges carry mandatory minimum sentences of five years in federal prison. Judges infrequently deny a guilty plea via a plea deal that includes a guilty plea to charges with mandatory minimum prison sentences. That is a sentence that only a jury—no matter how the evidence looks—could remove from the equation.

In addition to pleading guilty, both men admitted they had supplied a fentanyl analogue to a local drug buyer who had overdosed. The overdose ended after paramedics used several shots of narcan and revived the drug buyer. However, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman used this information to further demonize the father and son’s actions. “The defendants’ fentanyl contributed to a victim’s overdose, which fortunately, the victim survived,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said. After the paramedics had taken the local drug buyer to the hospital, he texted one of the Luciano dealers, saying, “they gave me narcan and I’m at the hospital now—can I settle up and get 60 more tomorrow?”

After mentioning the fentanyl overdose, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said, “the defendants used the dark web – a place where some criminals think they can hide – to sell fentanyl and oxycodone, two highly addictive and potentially lethal opioids.” He referenced the father and son’s Alphabay account “Zane61” where the duo sold medically prescribed fentanyl and oxycodone alongside imported fentanyl analogues such as acryl fentanyl and 4f-iBF Maleate. Another former Alphabay vendor named “PeterTheGreat” sold acryl fentanyl and 4f-iBF Maleate. When Homeland Security Investigations raided PeterTheGreat’s base of operations in South Carolina, they discovered a list of transactions. That ledger contained seven orders for acryl fentanyl and 4f-iBF Maleate under the moniker “Zane61.”

PeterTheGreat had shipped the Zane61 fentanyl analogue packages to an address in Staten Island, New York. That address, unsurprisingly, belonged to the Luciano family. The surprising part of the case, however, was that the ledger only added evidence to Homeland Security Investigations’ ongoing case into the Luciano father and son connection. They had already gathered evidence that connected the father and son to fentanyl distribution; the names on the ledger only stacked more evidence in law enforcement’s corner.

PeterTheGreat’s ledger contained hundreds of entries. All buyers. But the authorities never revealed if the ledger contained all of PeterTheGreat’s customers or if PeterTheGreat had only maintained a ledger of his biggest customers who sold the drugs both online and on the street. Some vendors maintain lists for leverage, but it did little good in the PeterTheGreat case. One of the two behind the account ended his own life in the county jail and the second defendant received a lengthy prison sentence for the distribution of fentanyl that led to the fatal overdose of a young drug user on the West Coast of the United States.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman thanked not only Homeland Security Investigations for the investigation that led to the conviction that day in court; he also thanked the United States Postal Inspection Service and the United States Customs. Customs played a usual role in the case: they intercepted packages of drugs from overseas.

Both men face a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.

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