Thousands of orders worth millions filled on dark web, investigators say
Four men face federal drug charges as part of an online sales ring, where the group sold millions of dollars of cocaine through the mail.
A team within the Drug Enforcement Administration began investigating Vincent Cuomo, Abraham Elliott, Paul Engstrom and Joseph Krieger in October 2020, according to federal court documents. The group is accused of packaging cocaine sales made on the dark web. In addition, investigators say Engstrom tried to conceal the drug money using cryptocurrencies.
The dark web consists of websites one can only access through certain software.
“Just a plain Google search isn’t going to get you there,” a current DEA investigator, who agreed to speak with the anonymously due to his ongoing work, said. “The dark web sounds like a very scary place, and oftentimes, it can be”
The group is accused of working out of two stash houses across the valley. One is on Silverado Ranch near Bermuda Road, and the second at a storage facility near McCarran International Airport, documents say.
Inside, investigators believe the team packaged thousands of orders into U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail envelopes and sent them through the agency’s mail system.
“They will go to extremes to try to not get caught,” the DEA agent said. “They might go to every post office in the valley just to deliver one package to try to not bring attention to themselves, but they are still doing it in a mass volume.”
Documents reveal the group dropped off one round of orders at the post office located at 1801 N. Martin Luther King Boulevard in North Las Vegas. During the drop-off, DEA agents surveilled Krieger depositing “several envelopes in the drop box out front of the post office.”
Over the course of several months, DEA agents and local police surveilled the men coming and going from the stash houses to area post offices.
Investigators believe the group filled nearly 3,300 orders between February 2020 and the end of May, court documents say. The total amount sold is estimated to weigh more than 44 pounds, netting at least $1.9 million over the last four months alone, they say
Investigators wrote in court documents thousands of customers left reviews on the dark web page, verifying at least 2,000 purchases.
“It gets as sophisticated as somebody actually trying to rate their site, trying to attract business,” the agent shared.
Drug agents arrested the men on June 21 during a raid at the stash house near the airport. Cuomo, Elliott and Engstrom were packing cocaine at the time, court documents say. Engstrom ran into a back office while Cuomo and Elliott ran out of the building and hid under trucks in a garage. Drug agents also say there was evidence a person had attempted to flush an unknown amount of cocaine down the toilet.
Inside the stash house, agents say they found blocks of cocaine and two large filing cabinets with about 100 Priority Mail envelopes, packaged and sealed.
Drug agents say even on the dark web, criminals will be caught.
“We want to help as much as we can to work with the public and get information out to people, so we can help prevent things,” the agent said. “If anything, we want information to be out there sometimes, so people are more knowledgeable about it, and they can talk to their kids, or teachers can talk to people in their classroom.”
All four men face federal charges of cocaine distribution. In addition, Engstrom faces a charge of money laundering.