Texas Men Arrested over Allegations of Darknet Drug Distribution Conspiracy

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that two Texas men were charged with allegedly participating in a darknet drug distribution conspiracy.

Kevin Ombisi and Eric Russell Jr. of Katy, Texas, were arrested Thursday and charged in the Western District of Tennessee, each with one count of conspiracy and Ombisi with an extra charge of unlawful distribution of controlled substances. The men allegedly utilized a darknet marketplace and messaging system called Wickr to sell pills resembling Adderall — but the pills purportedly contained methamphetamine.

According to an affidavit by Special Agent Paul W. Cox, “(t)he darknet is a portion of the internet that is not indexed by search engines and requires special software that encrypts and anonymizes internet traffic for both those browsing and hosting websites on the darknet” and “includes a large quantity of websites that exist primarily as marketplaces for illicit substances and services.”

Specifically, the affidavit alleged that the two men advertised a “100% AUTHENTIC Adderall Brand” on Empire Market, a darknet marketplace. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents reportedly bought the product undercover three times — in November 2019 and February and June 2020 — and after the product was delivered and tested, the agents found the pills contained methamphetamine.

The DEA used postage information, surveillance, GPS data, Wickr account information, and an IP address, among other avenues, in connection with the darknet activities and drug distribution to identify Ombisi and Russell as suspects.

Along with the arrests, the government recovered more than $5 million purportedly related to the alleged conduct.

The DEA’s Nashville District Office Tactical Diversion Squad, Homeland Security Investigations El Paso and Houston, and the Food and Drug Administration led the investigation. Prosecutors are Trial Attorney Jillian Willis of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Parks of the Western District of Tennessee, with assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Cotten.