A Long Island man is facing charges after allegedly using the dark web to distribute more than a million dollars worth of ecstasy.
Lawrence Ross, 39, of Brentwood, has been charged in federal court in Central Islip for allegedly conspiring to distribute, and distributing, more than 10 kilograms of ecstasy and more than 45 grams of methamphetamine.
Between November last year and this month, Ross allegedly sold controlled substances on the dark web, communicated with customers using the Wickr encrypted messaging application, distributed the drugs through the. mail, and accepted the Bitcoin cryptocurrency as payment.
U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said that the investigation began when a package containing ecstasy was seized by the Postal Inspection Service and was traced to Ross.
An undercover postal inspector began purchasing controlled substances from Ross at screen name “Gladyman” through various dark web marketplaces. Ross advertised on his “Gladyman” dark web profile that customers could contact him via the Wickr at screen name “Sweettooth80,” and the undercover postal inspector began communicating with Ross using Wickr.
On May 31, using Wickr, Donoghue said that the postal inspector ordered 100 ecstasy pills from Ross at the screen name “Sweettooth80” and transferred $1,000 worth of Bitcoin to Ross’s digital wallet. Several hours later, at the Islip Post Office, Ross mailed 33 packages, including one addressed to the postal inspector’s undercover name. That package was seized and contained 100 pills that tested positive for Ecstasy.
The following month, on June 9, using the same Wickr account, the postal inspector again ordered five grams of crystal meth from Ross, transferring $228.17 to Ross’ digital wallet. Ross mailed 61 packages at the Bay Shore Post Office, including a package addressed to the postal inspector’s undercover name.
Donoghue said that the package was seized by postal inspectors and contained approximately five grams of a substance that tested positive for crystal methamphetamine.
A search warrant was executed at Ross’ residence last week, and investigators seized more than 10 kilograms of ecstasy with a street value estimated at $1.5 million, a pill press for the manufacturing of controlled substances, approximately $250,000 of Bitcoin cryptocurrency and approximately $50,000 in cash.
If convicted, Ross faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
“As alleged, Ross sold ecstasy and crystal methamphetamine via the dark web and Wickr in exchange for Bitcoin, and then shipped the drugs to his customers through the U.S. mail,” Donoghue said. “Drug traffickers who believe they will escape detection by using the dark web, encrypted messaging applications and cryptocurrency should understand that they are not anonymous, their activities will be uncovered, and they will be prosecuted.” Mr. Donoghue expressed his grateful appreciation to the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in the investigation.
Homeland Security Special Agent In Charge Angel Melendez added, “Ross allegedly imported and manufactured his own drugs and used the veil of the dark-net to distribute his illicit products. More and more criminals are seeking ways to use the dark web to further their illegal enterprise, but law enforcement continues to evolve in its investigations to locate these vendors and bring them out of the shadows to face justice.”
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.