Ringleader of major dark web drug operation strikes plea deal in NYC – New York Post
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The ringleader of a major dark web operation that raked in millions of dollars dealing in counterfeit Xanax stuck a plea deal in Manhattan court Wednesday.
Chester Anderson, 47, will be sentenced to nine years in prison in June under the agreement that saw him plead guilty to four counts, including operating as a major trafficker and money laundering.
Anderson was hauled into Manhattan Supreme Court in beige jail garb, as one supporter in the gallery blew him a kiss. He spoke only to answer Justice Maxwell Wiley’s questions, saying he understood the terms of his plea.
Anderson has been custody since April 2019, when he and two co-conspirators were busted in New Jersey after a raid that netted the largest quantity of illicit pills seized in the state’s history.
Prosecutors said Anderson and two other men — Jarrette Codd, 44, and Ronald MacCarty, 54, — sold the drugs via “storefronts” on the dark web, a hidden part of the internet that doubles as a haven for illegal activity.
The men sold and shipped counterfeit Xanax tablets, fentanyl-laced heroin and other substances to buyers in 43 states, who purchased the drugs using bitcoin, according to court documents.
The ring laundered its take — $2.3 million in cryptocurrency — by using preloaded debit cards and withdrawing more than $1 million in cash at ATMs in Manhattan and New Jersey, officials said.
The scheme began in March 2016 when Anderson, using the screen name “sinmed,” set up the dark web storefronts through Dream Market, which operates on a hidden service of the Tor network.
Codd, a small-time contractor, and MacCarty, the owner of a New Jersey cellphone repair store called The Wireless Spot, helped get equipment and manufacture the pills.
Anderson and MacCarty created a shell company, Next Level Research and Development, to buy more than 2,200 pounds of microcrystalline cellulose, a primary ingredient used to manufacture pharmaceutical tablets.
MacCarty then helped the trio purchase a pill press, powder mixer and “punch dies” used to imprint “Xanax” labels on alprazolam pills.
The complex operation unraveled thanks to an eagle-eyed staffer in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, who spotted suspicious large ATM withdrawals in 2017 and began investigating, The Post previously reported.
During what eventually turned into a massive probe, undercover Manhattan DA investigators purchased about 10,000 counterfeit Xanax pills along with ketamine and GHB, a date rape drug, from the online storefronts.
Authorities raided the suspects’ homes and vehicles and seized a historic quantity of pills, including 420,000 to 620,000 in counterfeit Xanax – worth roughly $3 million on the street — as well as 500 glassines of fentanyl-laced heroin and other substances.
“As technology evolves, so does our office, and drug traffickers who think they can use the dark web to conceal their illicit activity will be caught and brought to justice,” warned DA Alvin Bragg in a statement.
Anderson, of Middlesex, NJ, is set to be sentenced on June 22. In addition to the jail term he will spend five years of post-release supervision, under the terms of the plea.
MacCarty, of Jackson, pleaded guilty to fifth-degree conspiracy and third-degree money laundering and was sentenced to 1 1/2-to-3 years behind bars. Codd’s case is still pending.
Additional reporting by Hannah Ferrera