Audrey Strauss, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that RICHARD CASTRO, a/k/a “Chemsusa,” a/k/a “Chems_usa,” a/k/a “Chemical_usa,” a/k/a “Jagger109,” was sentenced to 210 months in prison today for participating in a conspiracy to distribute carfentanil, fentanyl, and a fentanyl analogue over the “dark web,” including on AlphaBay and Dream Market, and for laundering the proceeds of his narcotics trafficking. CASTRO also was ordered to forfeit more than $4 million in criminal proceeds. CASTRO previously pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote, who imposed today’s sentence.
Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “For several years, Richard Castro used the dark web to sell prolific quantities of powerful opioids, including fentanyl and carfentanil. Castro’s drugs put lives in danger virtually every day – including the lives of the postal carriers who unknowingly delivered his product. Today’s lengthy sentence sends a clear message about this type of dangerous conduct.”
According to the allegations in the Indictment to which RICHARD CASTRO pled guilty, public court filings, and statements made in court:
From November 2015 through March 2019, CASTRO conspired to distribute carfentanil, fentanyl, and phenyl fentanyl (an analogue of fentanyl). Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is significantly stronger than heroin, and carfentanil is a fentanyl analogue that is approximately 100 times stronger than fentanyl. For most of the conspiracy, CASTRO and a co-conspirator dealt drugs over the dark web, using the monikers “Chemsusa,” “Chems_usa,” and “Chemical_usa.” CASTRO was an operator of these online monikers and the leader of this conspiracy. On one dark web marketplace, Dream Market, CASTRO boasted that he had completed more than 3,200 transactions on other dark web markets, including more than 1,800 on AlphaBay. The customer feedback for “Chemsusa” included, “Extremely potent and definitely the real Carf,” as well as “The Carfent is unbelievably well synthesized, keep up the amazing work.”
In June 2018, CASTRO, using the “Chemsusa” moniker, informed his customers that he was moving his business off dark web marketplaces and would accept purchase requests for narcotics only via encrypted email. To learn the off-market email address, “Chems_usa” required willing customers to pay a fee. An undercover law enforcement officer paid this fee, obtained the encrypted email address, and placed multiple orders with CASTRO. CASTRO’s co-defendant, Luis Fernandez, shipped narcotics on behalf of the conspiracy, including from New York City.
CASTRO’s customers paid him in bitcoin. CASTRO laundered his narcotics proceeds in several ways, including by funneling millions of dollars through his bitcoin wallets and by buying approximately 100 quadrillion Zimbabwe bank notes, among other valuables.
In March 2019, law enforcement searched CASTRO’s residence in Windermere, Florida. During this search, officers found, among other things, nine firearms, including an AR-15 assault rifle, and two safes that secured private keys to multiple bitcoin wallets. CASTRO also had several cars, including a Lamborghini and a Tesla.
In addition to his prison term, CASTRO, 37, of Windermere, Florida, was sentenced to five years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $4,156,198.18.
CASTRO’s co-conspirator, Luis Fernandez, was previously sentenced to 151 months in prison and four years of supervised release, and was ordered to forfeit $269,623.
Ms. Strauss praised the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the New York City Police Department for their outstanding investigative work. Ms. Strauss also thanked the Internal Revenue Service and the Orange County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in this case.