NYC, federal enforcers take down major fake Xanax ring

Three New Jersey men have been arrested and charged with distributing hundreds of thousands of counterfeit pills, including fake Xanax, netting millions of dollars in illicit profits.

The defendants – Chester Anderson (44) and co-conspirators Jarrette Codd (41) and Ronald MacCarty (51) – are charged with manufacturing and shipping controlled substances to 43 states, and laundering millions of dollars using Bitcoin.

The operation against the trio uncovered the largest quantity of illicit pills in New Jersey history, with a search on the defendant’s properties uncovering approximately 420,000 to 620,000 Xanax (alprazolam) tablets, as well as approximately 500 glassines of fentanyl-laced heroin and quantities of methamphetamine, ketamine, gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB).

They are accused of advertising the illicit drugs via a user account on the Dream Market dark web marketplace, and laundered the cryptocurrency proceeds by using it to buy preloaded debit cards, withdrawing cash in $700 increments at ATMs in Manhattan and New Jersey.

Investigators made test purchases from the user account, including 10,000 Xanax tablets, as well other illicit drugs including ketamine and GHB.

During the raid officers also recovered four pill presses and two industrial mixers, a GPS jammer and ‘cookbook for synthesising drugs, as well as thousands of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency. Collectively the trio withdrew more than $1m, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

“When our office received reports of suspicious activity at ATMs in New York and New Jersey, our talented investigators followed the money, using our state-of-the-art Cyber Lab to uncover a dark web counterfeit pill seller whose $2.3m operation spanned the US,” said DA Cyrus Vance.

“We were able to identify the three individuals taking out cash,” he added, and further investigation revealed they were receiving home deliveries of more than 1,000kg of microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) – a pharmaceutical excipient commonly used to make tablets – via a shell company called Next Level Research and Development.

The pill-making equipment, including punch dies used to stamp ‘Xanax’ on the tablets, was purchased using one of the defendant’s legitimate business, a cellphone store in Asbury Park, NJ, said Vance.

“If you are engaging in illicit activity on the dark web, you are on notice,” he warned. “We know how to find you, we know how to put you out of business, and we know how to hold you criminally accountable.”

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