A South Carolina Federal Court sentenced a drug kingpin to 14 years in prison for using the dark web to order narcotics from China, selling the narcotics, and using bitcoin to stash the profits.
Said kingpin, Eric Hughes, was sentenced by District Court Judge Terry Wooten after an eight-hour hearing. This isn’t Hughes’s only crime – last fall, he pled guilty to money laundering and drug conspiracy. Even though in this instance, Hughes’s lawyer argued for a shorter sentence, it is likely that the prior charges influenced the current 14-year sentence.
Further, during the hearing, the Drug Enforcement Agency described Hughes’s activity as follows. Hughes’s used the dark web, including certain websites regularly used by criminals, to hide his activities. Through those websites, Hughes ordered raw materials to craft counterfeit prescription drugs. Upon arrival of the materials, Hughes and other co-conspirators would rent vacation homes and set up “clandestine drug labs.” There, they would use a “pill press” to manufacture the drugs. The pill press produced as much as 500,000 pills on a monthly basis.
Hughes then used his cyber identity, under the nickname of “Genius Bar” to sell the drugs. The patches were sent through the U.S. postal services and purchases were paid for using bitcoin. Then, Hughes laundered the cryptocurrency through various bank accounts.
When his scheme was discovered, the DEA raided the various vacation homes. One home on Tybee Island was inundated in so much drug residue that agents were required to wear protective clothing and respirators. Further, restoration of the home cost $213,000. One agent had found $1 worth of bitcoin that had belonged to Hughes.