Law Enforcement Actions Involving Illegal Online Drug Sellers

Please download the following PDF for a complete list of illegal actions involving online drug sellers from 2011 to present.

In November 2019, Harley Skyberg, 40, was charged with running a drug trafficking operation on the internet that offered a variety of bath salt substances for sale. The website, “,” sold chemicals that had been obtained from China. Four 27-gallon tubs of alpha-PVP or “bath salts” were seized at the time of arrest, and possession of this substance with intent to distribute is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $1,000,000 fine.[1]


In October 2019, Dion Gregory Fisher, 33, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for manufacturing and distributing hundreds of thousands of counterfeit 30 mg oxycodone pills. The pills were made with fentanyl that had been ordered from China. Fisher was ordered to forfeit $1.4 million in profits.[2]


In October 2019, online drug dealer Trevon Antone Lucas, 23, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for selling counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl that caused an overdose death in June 2018. Lucas posted advertisements online showing illegal prescription pills. Lucas was aware that the pills he was selling were counterfeit, contained fentanyl, and that fentanyl laced pills has caused an overdose death in San Diego. Lucas sold nine of the pills to the 37-year-old victim anyway, who was found dead by his mother the next morning.[3]


In October 2019, three Chinese nationals were indicted for importing and distributing opioids including duranyl fentanyl, U-47700, and methoxyacetyl fentanyl. The conspiracy was operated through websites located in the People’s Republic of China, and the defendants used the alias “Alex” when using these websites. The substances were shipped through the United States Postal Service and in less than a year, the operation mailed 2,900 packages of controlled substances to customers in the United States.[4]


In July 2019, a Colombian national pleaded guilty to charges of distributing fentanyl and other substances into the United States, resulting in 15 overdoses. 11 of these overdoses caused serious bodily injury and 4 of these resulted in death. Vivas Ceron and members of his conspiracy used encrypted WICKR accounts and multiple email addresses to conduct business, which he ran out of his jail cell in Canada.[5]


In May 2019, Sean Shaughnessy, 51, of Dallas Fort Worth, Texas, was indicted for selling fentanyl and its analogues over the dark web. One of his buyers overdosed and died. Shaughnessy was a part of Operation Dark Gold, a year-long national operation that used undercover law enforcement to target darknet vendors. He was among several individuals charged and convicted for selling opioids and narcotics online.[6]


In May 2019, the owners and operators of a website called DeepDotWeb were indicted in a money laundering conspiracy related to kickbacks for sales of fentanyl, heroin, and other illegal materials on darknet marketplaces. The FBI considers DeepDotWeb to be a gateway to darknet marketplaces and a facilitator of opioid sales in the United States.[7]


In May 2019, three Germans were charged with administrating Wall Street Market, one of the world’s largest dark web marketplaces. Wall Street Market allowed 5,400 vendors to sell illegal goods including narcotics to about 1.15 million customers worldwide. Some of the top vendors on Wall Street Market were major distributors of opioids including fentanyl, oxycodone and hydrocodone.[8]


In May 2019, Robert Richard Jodoin, 50, was sentenced to nearly eleven years in prison for importing GHB into the United States, distributing benzoyl fentanyl, and possession of other controlled substances with intent to distribute. The web domain PRIMALVISIONS.NET was used by Jodoin to sell drugs, and multiple overdose victims across the United States were linked to the website.[9]


In May 2019, a Michigan man was sentenced to two years in prison for illegally importing kratom, a powerful psychoactive substance, and selling it through his online business called “Nomad Botanicals.” The site claimed that it could be used to treat serious diseases and medical conditions as a substitute for prescription medication.[10]


In April 2019, two men pleaded guilty for selling counterfeit and substandard injectable and oral steroids, Xanax, Valium, and Viagra through darknet website “NextDayGear.” Some of these drugs were manufactured by the defendants, who shipped over 10,000 packages across the United States between 2013 and 2018, generating over $2.3 million in revenue.[11]


In April 2019, two Canadian men were indicted for selling carfentanil, fentanyl, heroin and other drugs to American customers through their darknet vendor account “Pharmapill.” The account operated on marketplaces like AlphaBay, Dream Market, and Majestic Garden. The drugs were shipped to locations in the United States.[12]


In March 2019, five Argentine men were arrested to be extradited and tried in Milwaukee on charges of operating several illegal online pharmacies used to sell millions of dollars in prescription drugs to American customers. These drugs included oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, alprazolam, diazepam, and tramadol among others, and were sold to American customers without a prescription. The websites, including and, generated $6.7 million in profits from the sale of prescription medication and controlled substances to American customers.[13]


In March 2019, a Pennsylvania man was charged with distributing over 100,000 Schedule IV prescription pain pills through the United States Postal Service. Eugene Snyder, 71, mailed over 100,000 Tramadol and Carisoprodol tablets to sellers and users throughout the United States. The details of the shipments were communicated with buyers through social media platforms, including Facebook.[14]


In March 2019, Richard Castro, prolific dark web fentanyl and carfentanil dealer, was arrested on charges of selling and distributing fentanyl, carfentanil, and other fentanyl analogues through dark web marketplaces including AlphaBay and Dream Market. Using the moniker “Chemsusa,” Castro completed more than 3,200 transactions on the dark web.[15]


In February 2019, the head of the deadly Elmira opioid trafficking organization was sentenced to 23 years in prison for using substances like furanyl fentanyl and U-47700 ordered from China via the dark web to create opioid pills stamped to resemble legitimate 30 milligram Percocet pills. After manufacturing the pills, Robert Thatcher distributed them to dealers who sold the pills on the streets. These pills caused two deaths and at least one non-lethal overdose.[16]


In February 2019, a Texas couple with the highest number of verified transactions of any fentanyl vendor in the world was sentenced to prison. The couple operated the dark net marketplace account “MH4LIFE” among other accounts, which operated on marketplaces like Dream Market, Silk Road, AlphaBay, Darknet Heroes League, and others.[17]

In November 2018, a Chinese national residing in Massachusetts was sentenced to nearly six years in prison for his role in shipping kilogram amounts of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues across the United States. The drugs were ordered from various Chinese websites, which were shipped to Bin Wang, 43, who then shipped them domestically. One of these Chinese websites was linked to the purchase of acetylfentanyl that caused the overdose death of two Summit County residents in 2015.[18]


In August 2018, a Florida man pleaded guilty in federal court for owning and operating Executive Image International, a website that sold drugs like Silver Bullet, which was described as “all-natural male enhancer,” and an “Extreme Male Stimulant.” Silver Bullet actually contained sildenafil, the active pharmaceutical ingredient that is found in Viagra. The drug was purchased from China, and the label did not indicate the presence of sildenafil.[19]


In June 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice announced results from a yearlong operation targeting online sellers of illicit drugs. Five New York residents were charged after law enforcement discovered 12 kilograms of counterfeit Xanax pills, four pill presses and other materials in three residences searched.[20]


In April 2018, three Orange County men were charged with manufacturing and distributing counterfeit pills designed to look like name-brand oxycodone pills. The men purchased fentanyl and analogue cyclopropyl fentanyl online to make counterfeit pills which they sold through darknet marketplaces. Authorities seized bags that contained nearly 3 kilograms of counterfeit oxycodone and Xanax from the pill press lab.[21]


In March 2018, Lynn resident Philip Goodwin, 37, was sentenced to over 10 years in prison for trafficking counterfeit steroids, including testosterone and trenbolone, through social media. Five others were also arrested for their role in marketing, selling and distributing the steroids, which were falsely marketed as “Onyx” steroids, which is a legitimate pharmaceutical company that does not manufacture steroids.[22]


In March 2018, a New York man and a New Jersey woman pleaded guilty to their roles in distributing controlled substances through two internet-based companies, Unbeatablechems and RC Powders. Through the websites, the pair distributed controlled substances such as the highly potent synthetic opioid U-47700 and two hallucinogenic drugs with properties similar to A-PVP and PCP. The U-47700 sold on these sites resulted in the death of a customer in Madison, Wisconsin.[23]


In March 2018, three people were indicted for their roles in distributing pills containing fentanyl that led to a series of overdoses and one death in Tennessee. The counterfeit pills were pressed to resemble Percocet pills by pressing the Percocet “A333” label into them. The pills actually contained fentanyl, alprazolam, and acetaminophen. The men who manufactured the pills had obtained the fentanyl from China via internet and had ordered the pill press on Amazon.[24]

On October 29, 2015, Daniel Sanchez, 40, was sentenced to 21 months in prison and then be deported for his role in smuggling counterfeit drugs into the U.S. Sanchez arranged to have misbranded Viagra, painkillers and other prescription drugs imported from India to two re- shippers in the U.S.: Neil Russell of Pittsburgh, PA, and Manuel Pena of Houston, TX. Both re- shippers are under indictment along with Paridhi Sharma, who is identified as being the Indian shipper.[1]

In August of 2015, an indictment filed in the US District Court in Montana charged Canada Drugs and affiliates in the UK and Barbados with smuggling, money laundering and conspiracy. The online pharmacy sold $78 million worth of unapproved, mislabeled and in some cases, counterfeit cancer drugs to doctors in the U.S. over a three-year period. All but one of the 14 companies and individuals named as defendants are located outside of the U.S. and will force prosecutors to undertake the extradition process.[3]

From June 9-16, 2015, 236 agencies from 115 different countries came together to thwart online sales of counterfeit medicines through Operation Pangea VIII. The week-long operation resulted in the seizure of 20.7 fake and/or illicit medicines worth an estimated $81 million. During the operation, 156 individuals were arrested in connection to these crimes.[4]

Chinese police detained over 20 people in a crackdown on the production and online trading of fake drugs. Police seized at least 20,000 boxes of fake drugs and several tons of raw materials in the operation that lasted for more than three months. The drugs were sold to nearly 30 provinces and municipalities across China and the total selling price topped 100 million yuan (16.11 million US dollars).[5]

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) seized over £3 million of illegally traded medicines during 2014. More than 1,600 websites involved in the illicit selling and advertising of counterfeit or unlicensed medicines were shut down by the agency. The MHRA is now targeting social media by working with YouTube, Amazon, and eBay to combat these criminal efforts, and as a result, almost 19,000 online videos have been removed in the past year.[6]

On May 22, 2014, the U.S. FDA reported on the 7th annual International Internet Week of Action (IIWA) also known as Operation Pangea VII. During the event, May 13 to May 20, 2014, law enforcement, customs, and regulatory authorities from 111 countries collaborated to target illegal online pharmacies. Within the U.S. the FDA along with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspected packages at various mail facilities resulting in the seizure of 583 shipments. The FDA notified Internet service providers of the 1,975 websites in violation of U.S. law.[7]

In May of 2014, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department made 19 arrests and seized drugs and $25,000 in U.S. and Mexican currency after a five-month undercover investigation called Undercover deputies made 41 buys upon easily finding drugs available on sites like Facebook and Craigslist. Seized were quantities of heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, cocaine, Ecstasy and prescription drugs.[8]

In a March 2014 raid, India’s FDA officials seized more than 4,000 strips of prescription drugs including addictive anti-depressants, anti-hypertensives and Viagra, worth over Rs 4,000,000, before the shipments could be illegally exported. All of the drugs had been ordered online, and the raid came just before the consignment was about to be smuggled to various countries like the US, UK, Australia, Japan, and Dubai.[9]

On June 27, 2013, the U.S. FDA reported the successful execution of Operation Pangea VI, a law enforcement initiative resulting in the elimination of 1,677 websites selling illegal prescription drugs. The partnership included individuals from the US Department of Justice, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, Interpol, and authorities from nearly 100 countries. The members of Operation Pangea VI took action against 9,600 websites and included the seizure of dangerous drugs valued at $41 million.[10]

On March 27, 2013, three men and one woman were sentenced in relation to the illegal online supply of prescription-only and counterfeit medicines. This follows an undercover operation by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Searches of the homes of those involved uncovered stashes of counterfeit medication and generic prescription-only medicine. The seizure included Viagra, Cialis, diazepam and methadone. A study of a computer also showed email traffic between Andrew Luxton, Samantha Steed, Carl Willis and others indicating the previous supply of illegitimate medicine.[11]

On March 27, 2013, nine defendants were sentenced for their roles in illegally distributing controlled substances to customers who bought the drugs from illicit Internet pharmacies. The defendants were also collectively ordered to forfeit more than $94 million in illegal proceeds. Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Special Agent in Charge Bruce C. Balzano stated, “prescription drug abuse has risen to alarming levels, often times leaving a trail of devastation behind and negatively impacting our communities. The individuals sentenced this week were involved in online pharmacy schemes that were illegally distributing controlled substances.”[12]

On March 13, 2013, Edmond Paolucci, 54, of Coventry, Rhode Island and Patrick Cunningham, 44, of Cranston, Rhode Island, admitted to the court that they participated in a conspiracy to repackage illegal drugs and sell them under various names and labels to consumers who placed orders via the Internet. A significant portion of the profits realized from the sale of the illegal drugs was laundered back to individuals in Israel.[13]

On August 9, 2012, a Puerto Rican man faced up to 10 years in prison after being found guilty by a jury on U.S. federal charges stemming from his role as a key operative for a drug ring that distributed large quantities of Chinese-made counterfeit pharmaceuticals throughout the United States and worldwide. Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security found more than 100,000 pills made to resemble a variety of popular prescription medications, including Viagra, Cialis, Valium, Xanax and Lipitor.[14]

On August 5, 2012, Chinese government officials seized “more than $182 million of counterfeit pharmaceuticals …in the latest attempt to clean up a food and drug market that has been flooded with fakes.” Chinese police arrested more than 2,000 individuals and destroy 1,100 production facilities for producing counterfeit drugs.[15]

On April 24, 2012, two men pleaded guilty and were sentenced for smuggling counterfeit and misbranded pharmaceuticals into the U.S. Both men operated an Internet business in Israel that used multiple websites to illegally sell large amounts of prescription drugs to U.S. purchasers. In total, they sent approximately 9,000 separate drug shipments to U.S. purchasers, generating over $1.4 million in gross profit. Ultimately, one man received 10 months in federal prison, was fined $30,000 and forfeited $50,000. The other man received one year of probation, was fined $15,000 and forfeited $15,000.[16]

In December of 2012, the State of Oregon fined Hayden Hamilton, founder of, $50,000 for operating without an Oregon pharmacy license. The 35-year-old Portland businessman has shipped medicine from India and other countries to customers in the United States and around the world.[17]

In the summer of 2011, U.S. federal agents identified a 41-year-old, Shane Lance on suspicion of illegal online drug sales. Agents arrested Lance and indicted him on multiple counts, including conspiracy to traffic counterfeit drugs. Last spring, he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to traffic and one count of trafficking, and in November he received his sentence: 10 months in prison and a $5,100 fine to be paid to Pfizer.[18]



[1] “Vancouver, Washington, man charged with possessing and distributing a controlled substance manufactured in China”, U.S. Department of Justice, November 8, 2019

[2] “Large-Scale Counterfeit Fentanyl Pill Dealer Sentenced To 30 Years In Prison”, U.S. Department of Justice, October 31, 2019

[3] “Online Drug Dealer Sentenced to 15 Years for Distributing Counterfeit Pills Containing Fentanyl that Caused Overdose Death”, U.S. Department of Justice, October 16, 2019

[4] “Three Chinese Nationals Using the Alias “Alex” Indicted in the United States for Conspiring to Import and Distribute Deadly Opioids”, U.S. Department of Justice, October 1, 2019

[5] “Colombian National Pleads Guilty to Operating an International Fentanyl Trafficking Organization from a Canadian Prison”, U.S. Department of Justice, July 12, 2019

[6] “Darknet Fentanyl Dealer Indicted in Nationwide Undercover Operation Targeting Darknet Vendors Who were Selling to Thousands of U.S. Residents”, U.S. Department of Justice, May 30, 2019

[7] “Administrators of DeepDotWeb Indicted for Money Laundering Conspiracy, Relating to Kickbacks for Sales of Fentanyl, Heroin and Other Illegal Goods on the Darknet”, U.S. Department of Justice, May 8, 2019

[8] “Three Germans Who Allegedly Operated Dark Web Marketplace with Over 1 Million Users Face U.S. Narcotics and Money Laundering Charges”, U.S. Department of Justice, May 3, 2019

[9] “Flagler Beach Man Sentenced To Nearly Eleven Years In Federal Prison For Selling Benzoyl Fentanyl And Other Drugs Online”, U.S. Department of Justice, May 14, 2019

[10] “Michigan Man Sentenced for Unlawfully Importing and Distributing Misbranded Drugs”, U.S. Department of Justice, May 8, 2019

[11] “US: Two Men Plead Guilty to Selling Drugs for Crypto and Laundering $2.8 Million”, Yahoo Finance, April 24, 2019

[12] “Two Canadian men indicted for selling carfentanil, fentanyl and heroin over the Internet and shipping the drugs to Europe, Canada and the U.S., including Ohio”, U.S. Department of Justice, April 25, 2019

[13] “Five Argentines face charges after international online pharmacy ring is busted in Milwaukee”, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 9, 2019

[14] “Snyder County Man Charged With Conspiracy To Distribute Over 100,000 Prescription Pain Pills Using Priority Mail”, U.S. Department of Justice, March 20, 2019

[15] “Prolific Dark Web Dealer Of Carfentanil And Fentanyl Arrested”, U.S. Department of Justice, March 12, 2019

[16] “Head Of Deadly Elmira Opioid Trafficking Organization Sentenced To 23 Years In Prison”, U.S. Department of Justice, February 7, 2019

[17] “Texas couple sentenced to prison; they were the most prolific dark net fentanyl vendor in the world at the time of their arrest last year”, U.S. Department of Justice, February 7, 2019

[18] “Chinese national sentenced to nearly six years in prison for distributing opioids and other drugs that were shipped from China to the U.S. and ultimately to Ohio”, U.S. Department of Justice, November 19, 2018

[19] “Florida Man Pleads Guilty to Scheme to Market Dietary Supplements”, U.S. Department of Justice, August 15, 2018

[20] “New York Residents Charged After Being Found With Over 12 Kilos Of Counterfeit Xanax Pills”, The Partnership for Safe Medicines, August 9, 2018

[21] “Three O.C. Men Face Federal Narcotics Charges that Allege Distribution of Counterfeit Opioid Pills Containing Fentanyl”, U.S. Department of Justice, April 5, 2018

[22] “Lynn Man Sentenced to Over 10 Years in Prison for Role in Counterfeit Steroid Conspiracy”, U.S. Department of Justice, March 30, 2018

[23] “New York Man Admits Distributing Synthetic Drug Leading To Overdose Death”, U.S. Department of Justice, March 28, 2018

[24] “Federal Jury Finds Three Guilty In Fentanyl Distribution Conspiracy”, U.S. Department of Justice, March 27, 2018



[1]“Counterfeit-drug smugglers, under indictment in Pittsburgh, headed to prison”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 30, 2015

[2] “Businessman Arrested for Introducing Misbranded Drugs Into Interstate Commerce, Conspiracy, Wire And Mail Fraud”, U.S. FDA, October 8, 2015

[3] “U.S. charges Canadian company with smuggling, money laundering”, Yahoo! News, August 10, 2015


[5] “At least 20 detained in China fake drug crackdown”, China Daily, July 20, 2015

[6] “Illicit vendors using YouTube to advertise fake drugs, says MHRA”, In-Pharma Technologist,  January 8, 2015

[7] FDA targets illegal online pharmacies in globally coordinated action”, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, May 22, 2014

[8] “San Diego County deputies bust Internet sales of illegal drugs”, Los Angeles Times, May 11, 2014

[9]  “FDA halts illegal export of drugs worth Rs40 lakh”, Mumbai Mirror, March 24, 2014,

[10] “International operation targets online sale of illicit medicines” Interpol, June 27, 2013

[11]  “Three men and one woman sentenced in counterfeit medicines case”, MHRA, March 27, 2013

[12] “Nine Sentenced For Illegally Distributing Controlled Substances Over The Internet”, Department of Justice, March 27, 2013

[13] “Two Plead Guilty to Participation in International Conspiracy to Import and Distribute Prescription Drugs and Anabolic Steroids”, Department of Justice, March 13, 2013

[14] Man convicted for role in international counterfeit drug distribution scheme Search continues for organization’s ringleader”, U.S. DHS, ICE, August 9, 2012

[15] “China Arrest 2,000 Individuals and Destroys 1,100 Production Facilities for Making Counterfeit Drugs”, Rx-360, August 5, 2012

[16] “2 Israeli men sentenced for smuggling counterfeit and misbranded pharmaceuticals into the United States”, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, April 24, 2013

[17] “State fines online pharmacy with Portland ties; Oregon shipments blocked”, U.S. Department of Homeland Security,(December 21, 2012

[18] “Inside Pfizer’s Fight Against Counterfeit Drugs”, Bloomberg Businessweek, January 17, 2013