Eight Los Angeles County men who were behind two groups selling drugs over the darknet — the internet’s crime-ridden underbelly — are facing possible life in prison after being charged in separate cases, federal prosecutors said Monday.
Both syndicates cultivated a national customer base via online vendors called Drugpharmacist and Aeirla, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said a in a news release.
Drugpharmacist was run by five Lancaster men who sold various narcotics, including a shipment of heroin that caused a fatal overdose in Tennessee, while Aeirla was operated by three other men who executed over 2,000 deals for methamphetamine and cocaine, authorities said.
The Drugpharmacist crew allegedly sold its stock over the darknet exchanges Wall Street Market and Dream, while listings for Aeirla could be found on the now-shuttered AlphaBay Market.
Prosecutors have identified the five behind Drugpharmacist as Jerrell Eugene Anderson, 28; Christopher Carion Van Holton, 31; Adan Sepulveda, 26; Kenneth Lashawn Hadley, 31; and Jackie Walter Burns, 20.
The men were charged with conspiracy to distribute meth, heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine in a nine-count indictment returned last week, officials said.
They’re accused of using stuffed animals to stash the drugs they sent across the U.S. via the Postal Service. One such shipment of heroin that went out on Aug. 7, 2018, resulted in a customer fatally overdosing in Knoxville, Tennessee, according to court documents.
Investigators determined the men were using stash houses in the San Fernando Valley to package and ship the narcotics.
In the Aeirla case, three men have agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, prosecutors said.
They defendants are identified as Anh Pham, 49, and Carlos Miguel Gallardo, 59, both of Hawaiian Gardens, and 43-year-old La Crescenta man Joseph Michael Gifford.
Gifford is also facing a narcotics distribution charge in a separate case out of Pennsylvania.
Investigators allegedly uncovered 2,289 drug sales made by the group as of Nov. 28, 2018. Undercover agents bought meth from Aeirla 26 times between March 2017 and December 2018, officials said.
Pham is accused of running the web operation, selling meth by the pound, while Gallardo and Gifford allegedly packaged orders and shipped them across the nation. The narcotics were hidden in things like toys, a beach ball and boxes of Christmas cards and chocolates, authorities said.
All five defendants in the Drugpharmacist case were arrested earlier in March and have since been released on bond. They’re expected to be arraigned in the coming weeks.
In the Aeirla case, Pham and Gallardo are in custody while Gifford, who signed a plea agreement Monday, is free on bond, prosecutors said.
The Aeirla defendants are facing a maximum penalty of life in federal prison, while the Drugpharmacist crew will face the same maximum sentence if convicted as charged, officials said.