US Citizen Indicted for Narcotics Distribution in Exchange for Bitcoin

A United States citizen has been charged with heroin and methamphetamine distribution in exchange for Bitcoin (BTC).

According to a Jan. 3 press release published by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, Joanna De Alba allegedly promoted and sold illegal narcotics on a dark web marketplace dubbed the “Wall Street Market,” between June 2018 and May 2019. 

The official release notes: 

“Defendant Joanna De Alba, a U.S. citizen, will be arraigned this afternoon in federal court in Brooklyn on an indictment charging her with conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, and distribution of heroin and methamphetamine via the “‘dark web.’”

To ensure purported anonymity, De Alba asked customers to contact her through encrypted messengers and pay with BTC.

An undercover operation

As part of the investigation, an undercover agent purchased 30 grams of heroin and 10 grams of methamphetamine allegedly from De Alba, and paid for the drugs with Bitcoin, as requested. 

Sometime later, the agent received a package allegedly shipped by the defendant, which contained heroin and methamphetamine, according to a dedicated analysis.

If De Alba is convicted on all accounts, she will be sentenced for five years of imprisonment and a maximum sentence of up to 100 years in prison.

In search of anonymity

Criminals indeed actively use the dark web seeking anonymity, which presents law enforcement with significant challenges, as users with malintent are able to achieve a greater level of anonymity by using cryptocurrencies. 

A November report from think tank The Rand Corporation singled out Bitcoin, Litecoin (LTC), and Monero (XMR) as the most used cryptocurrencies on the darknet.

However, an analysis of Bitcoin transactions can also help law enforcement agencies locate cybercriminals. Thus, in mid-October, U.S. authorities shut down one of the largest-to-date child sexual exploitation market called Welcome to Video. 

To identify the criminals, the investigators used tools developed by analytic company Chainalysis, which helped to track the BTC wallets, used by the criminals to receive payments from customers.

As Cointelegraph reported last month, Russia’s largest darknet marketplace Hydra revealed that it is looking to raise $146 million in a token offering that would allow it to go global.