Three men have pleaded guilty to multiple counts related to dark web drug trafficking in their recent appearance to the court. The trio who formed part of a six-member drug organization that engaged in mass production of pills and possession with intent to distribute illicit drugs through the dark web admitted their wrongdoings after pleading not guilty in their previous court appearance. According to the report, the criminal organization was made up of five men and one woman who actively operated the drug ring since 2016.
Armand Sananda Saedi 27, of Atlanta, Ga,.pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances. He also admitted to engaging in mass production of potent pills. Morgan McKenzie Slaton 22, of Hoschton Ga, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess alprazolam with intent to distribute.
According to the press released by the U.S. Department of Justice, the duo faces up to five years in prison. Kolbie Hadden Watters 22, of Augusta, Ga,. Pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute fentanyl, and also, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a dark web drug trafficking crime. Watters was earlier charged with other crimes such as possession of an unregistered firearm, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and using or maintaining drug premises. According to reports, he faces from 10 years in prison for each admitted crimes to life in a prison sentence.
Walker Christian Forrester 24, of Loganville, Ga,. had similar charges with Watters. However, he pleaded not guilty. Larry Overton 46, of Harlem, also pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and using or maintaining drug premises. He faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. Jonathan Britt Lester 22, of Loganville Ga, earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances.
Each individual will be subjected to a substantial fine according to the U.S. Justice Department. There is no parole in the federal system, and after completion of their individual sentences, they would be subjected to a supervised release clause.
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In addition to the above-stated charges, Watters and Lester face additional state charge of aggravated assault and felony murder. Watters and Lester face the accusation of beating and suffocating Chase David Loffler 24, to death. In April 2018, the body of Loffler was reported to have been buried at Lester’s backyard. The deceased is suspected to be a co-conspirator.
Their operation came to light after authorities discovered that Forrester had purchased an industrial grade press in September 2017. According to reports, authorities investigated and traced his movements until he was finally nabbed in a traffic stop in November 2018. Beside him was Watters. The Harlem police briefly searched the vehicle and discovered a sawed-off shotgun, 5200 counterfeit Xanax pills, and marijuana.
Investigation revealed that Forrester also purchased a punch die to manufacture the Xanax pills using alprazolam as the main ingredient. They manufactured tens of thousands of pills per month after purchasing the ingredients using the dark web. As claimed by the report, they set up a store on the dark web to sell their drugs or use a conventional illegal drug distribution channel.
At a point, Watters and Forrester lost their Canadian supplier. Saedi then joined the network to supply the group with alprazolam. Slaton who was the girlfriend of the murdered suspect was involved in the operation as she usually counted and packaged pills.
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It was reported that the individuals moved four of the purchased pill presses to the Northern, Southern and Middle district of Georgia. This was a calculated plan to avoid detection. Overton was said to have moved one pill press to his home in exchange for drugs. It was discovered during the investigation that he had been hospitalized for overdosing on a synthetic opioid. They were also accused of manufacturing synthetic heroin using fentanyl and carfentanil for distribution using the dark web.
Carfentanil has been said to be more potent than fentanyl, and a very dangerous drug that has resulted in a number of overdose death in the country. Fentanyl has also got a history of being prevalent among drug traffickers in the country and causing more deaths than gun violence.
Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia stated that the case highlights the growing concern and the threat of dark web drug trafficking and its associated violence influenced by cyber technology. According to Christine, law enforcement and other agencies will work together to overcome these challenges, and ensure that anyone involved in trafficking dangerous drugs into the country is punished by the law. Philipines recently empowered its personnel against the technological challenges imposed by dark web such as anonymous transactions.
Source: The Augusta Chronicle
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