Cali Cartel Arrest: A woman from Woodland Hills has admitted selling drugs through the vendor accounts “Cali Cartel” on various dark web marketplaces that include Nightmare Market and Dream Market. Apart from the stated pseudonym, the defendant has also used several other pseudonyms on other darknet e-commerce platforms viz., “RaisedByAppeals” and “Diablow”.
The defendant has been identified to be Catherine Stuckey, 27 years of age, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy for distributing controlled substance such as heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine. Stuckey was not the only one in this case, but there are co-conspirators, who has operated various vendor accounts like:
- Cali Cartel;
The NCIDE or The Northern California Illicit Digital Economy Task Force has been able to identify Stuckey and her co-conspirators after numerous so-called “undercover purchases.” The investigators would use regular accounts on the dark web marketplaces in the bid to purchase contraband. The cops later search the package and drugs for any information that might be useful to their investigation. In many of the cases, the majority of the identifying information is acquired from Postal Inspectors’ analysis with the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Investigators and included images of the packages in some of the court documents.
Instead of her own address, Stuckey had shipped packages with a return address that has been associated with local businesses, including:
- C&C Cosmetica.
- CC Cosmetics;
- Cee Cee Cosmetics;
- Corbin Cosmetics;
- WildStylz Cool Covers
Stuckey had widely used the email id, [email protected] (an abbreviation of CaliCartel).
The Course of The Investigation
The undercover purchases began back in 2018 and ended in May 2019. Investigators had made the first undercover purchase on the 15th of October, 2018, when they had bought two grams of cocaine from “Cali Cartel” on the Dream Market. The investigators had received 2.9 grams of a “white powdery substance that had tested positive for cocaine” on the 22nd of October. Research made on the postage label and used on the package of cocaine led investigators to an account with Encidia, which is an internet postage provider. The account belonged to Gabriel Alva, who happens to be one of the defendant’s accomplices. Alva’s Encidia account had led to the discovery of five accounts with the United States Postal Service (USPS) under Alva’s name.
On the 10th of January, 2019, the investigators had ordered 3.5 grams of heroin from “RaiseAppeals” account on the Dream Market. On the 11th of January, investigators who were conducting surveillance on Alva’s residence had observed Stuckey exit her residence carrying a bin. Alva left the house and carried a bag. After loading the bin into a car, the defendant and Alva drove to a local Post Office. At the local Post Office, Stuckey and Alva had dropped 42 packages into a box for outgoing mail. They had picked up some of the free shipping supplies that have been offered by USPS and returned to Alva’s residence.
Investigators have managed to collect the packages that both of them had dropped in an outgoing mail container. The address on one of the several packages matched the address an investigator had given RaiseAppeals after placing an order for 3.5 grams of heroin. Employees at the local Post Office told the investigators that the duo on a regular basis dropped off similar packages. Almost daily they do the same thing, the employee informed.
The investigators continued making undercover purchases while conducting surveillance on Stuckey and her accomplices in the bid to catch them red-handed. They had acquired search warrants for Alva’s Gmail account. A search of her inbox has finally led to the discovery of incriminating emails between Alva and Stuckey. One, sent from Alva to Stuckey on the 15th of April, 2018, made it into one of the court documents. The text is as follows.
Have my money ready. Have the fucking printout of both your Venmo and excel sheet. Do not forget what you are involved in. Because now, from the moment you took one single payment until whenever it is I die or get out of all this, you are part of this organization.
Some of the other snippets include:
Stuckey to Alva: “… In terms of work, if we can agree on a set amount that we both agree is reasonable I’ve earned since July that would be best.” –
Alva to Stuckey: “Say goodbye to law school bitch.”
Post-reading the email (the first one mentioned here), the investigators had obtained a search warrant for Venmo accounts that belonged to Alva and Stuckey. On the 1st of March, 2019, the investigators had obtained Venmo transaction records for both the accounts. Specific people had paid Alva until December 2017, when Venmo had banned the account. After the ban was successful, the same people started dropping similar payments to Stuckey’s account. The conspirators had put the name “Bridgette B.” in place of their own on the outgoing packages.
Investigators had continued to order small quantities of drugs from Stuckey’s accounts on Dream Market while conducting surveillance at her house at the same time. When Dream Market had announced their shutdown, Stuckey had opened accounts on other marketplaces having similar names.
On the 16th of May, the federal authorities had arrested Stuckey and her co-conspirators. During the search that led to Stuckey’s arrest, investigators had found more than 23 kilograms of methamphetamine, 2.7 kilograms of cocaine and 1.9 kilograms of heroin in her residence.
Stuckey has pleaded guilty to conspiracy for distributing controlled substances on the 14th of July, 2020. The U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez has scheduled Stuckey’s sentencing hearing for the 20th of October, 2020.
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