LINCOLN PARK, Mich. – Officials said two women and two men were part of a dark web operation in Metro Detroit that involved moving garbage bags full of drugs and mailing orders individually from a post office.
‘Large-scale dark web drug vendor’
Officials said they began an investigation in 2018 into Victor Hernandez, of Detroit. He was suspected of operating as a “large-scale dark web drug vendor,” according to an Aug. 22 criminal complaint.
His vendor, called “opiateconnect,” has been operating since at least 2016 on most dark web marketplaces, authorities said. It sells high volumes of pure/uncut cocaine and pressed Xanax, court records show.
Sales are made on the vendor’s own onion site and via Jabber direct messaging, officials said.
Carolyn Hernandez-Taylor, of Detroit, is named as an active member of the organization, and Lynn-Maire Alvarez-Garcia, of Lincoln Park, is labelled an “associate” of Hernandez-Taylor, according to the complaint.
Salvador Rivas is accused of often driving in tandem with Hernandez-Taylor when she delivered the drugs to Alvarez-Garcia, according to police.
Officials said Hernandez-Taylor was one of the most active members of “opiateconnect.” She was often seen at suspected drug processing and packaging locations, authorities said.
When Hernandez-Taylor left the packaging and processing locations, she would often have one or more garbage bags full of drug parcels to mail to dark web customers around the United States, court records show.
Officials said they have “observed these parcels being mailed and have seized several packages, all of which contained drugs sold by opiateconnect, including cocaine and pressed Xanax.”
Alvarez-Garcia would receive drug parcels from Hernandez-Taylor and mail them from the post office in Lincoln Park, police said.
Drugs mailed on Dec. 2
Officials said they were surveilling Alvarez-Garcia’s home in Lincoln Park on Dec. 2, 2021. Her black Jeep Patriot was parked in front of the apartment, they said.
A blue 2017 Ford Fusion registered to Hernandez-Taylor pulled into the complex and parked behind Alvarez-Garcia’s Jeep, the criminal complaint says. The driver of the Fusion, later identified as Hernandez-Taylor, sat in the car and appeared to be waiting, according to authorities.
Alvarez-Garcia walked out of the apartment building and spoke to Hernandez-Taylor through the window, police said. She then opened the back hatch of the Jeep and the trunk of the Fusion, according to officials.
Alvarez-Garcia removed a black garbage bag from the trunk of the Fusion and put it in the back of her Jeep, police said. She closed the Fusion’s trunk and the Jeep’s hatch, then spoke with Hernandez-Taylor, court records show.
Hernandez-Taylor left the parking lot and drove to a neighborhood in Southwest Detroit, police said.
Alvarez-Garcia got into her Jeep and drove to the Lincoln Park post office, according to authorities. She grabbed the black garbage bag, went inside, and mailed 13 packages, the criminal complaint says.
Drugs mailed on Dec. 6
A similar exchange was monitored between Hernandez-Taylor and Alvarez-Garcia four days later, police said.
The same Fusion arrived at the apartment building and parked next to Alvarez-Garcia’s Jeep, according to court records. Alvarez-Garcia walked out, removed two full black trash bags from the trunk of the Fusion, and placed the bags into the back of her Jeep, officials said.
Both vehicles left the parking lot, and Alvarez-Garcia drove to the Lincoln Park post office, according to police.
She carried two black trash bags into the post office and mailed about 24 packages of various sizes, authorities said.
Shortly after Alvarez-Garcia left the post office, a special agent with the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General went inside and examined the packages she had mailed, the complaint says.
One package was selected for further inspection, officials said. When authorities opened that package, they found 1,221 pressed blue B707 bars — identified as counterfeit alprazolam bars, according to court records.
Police said the bars were sent to the Michigan State Police forensic lab and found to contain Clonazolam, which is not FDA approved for medical use in the U.S.
“Clonazolam is a dangerous and understudied benzodiazepine, classification of drugs,” the criminal complaint reads. “Clonazolam (known on the street as Clon, Clam, or C-lam) is more than twice as strong as Xanax (alprazolam) and is the preferred active ingredient of pressed Xanax sold on the dark web. Clonazolam is not FDA approved, and thus illegal to consume and import into the United States.”
Drug exchange on Jan. 18
Officials said they were watching Hernandez-Taylor’s Fusion on Jan. 18 in the 4300 block of Parkinson Street in Detroit. She got into the Fusion and drove to the 5800 block of Florida Street in Detroit, according to authorities.
Hernandez-Taylor parked behind the house, and authorities said they noticed a white Dodge Ram that belongs to Hernandez in the driveway.
When Hernandez-Taylor left the driveway in the Fusion, she was followed closely by an older, red Chevrolet Trailblazer, which was driven by Rivas, officials said. She drove through Southwest Detroit neighborhoods and side streets, always followed by the Trailblazer, the criminal complaint says.
Officials believed Hernandez-Taylor was trying to lose them, so they backed off. They caught back up with her at Alvarez-Garcia’s apartment building in Lincoln Park, court records show.
Hernandez-Taylor opened the trunk of the Fusion and removed two full trash bags before placing them in the back of Alvarez-Garcia’s Jeep, police said. Alvarez-Garcia grabbed a third trash bag from the back of the Fusion and placed it in the front passenger side of the Jeep, according to authorities.
Hernandez-Taylor and Alvarez-Garcia spoke for several minutes before leaving the parking lot in their cars, officials said.
Alvarez-Garcia went to the post office, followed by Hernandez-Taylor, court records show. Alvarez-Garcia parked, removed the trash bag from her front passenger seat and carried it inside, the criminal complaint says. Hernandez-Taylor left the parking lot, according to police.
Alvarez-Garcia returned to her Jeep with a mail cart, pulled out the two full trash bags from the back, and put them on the cart, court records show. She went back inside and mailed “several dozen” parcels, officials said.
After Alvarez-Garcia left the post office, the same special agent examined one of the packages and found 111 blue B707, counterfeit alprazolam, bars, like those listed on the dark web by opiateconnect, according to authorities.
Drugs mailed on Feb. 7
Officials said Hernandez-Taylor’s Fusion was parked in the driveway next to Hernandez’s pickup truck on Feb. 7 at the home on Florida Street in Detroit.
A red Chevrolet Trailblazer was parked directly across the street, and Rivas remained inside the SUV, according to authorities.
Hernandez-Taylor eventually pulled out of the driveway, and Rivas followed behind her through the neighborhood, the complaint says. They drove in tandem for several blocks, it says.
Officials said they saw Hernandez-Taylor pull into Alvarez-Garcia’s apartment building and park next to the Jeep.
Alvarez-Garcia walked out and put two trash bags from the trunk of the Fusion into the back of her Jeep, according to authorities. Hernandez-Taylor and Alvarez-Garcia spoke for several minutes while sitting in the driver’s seats of their vehicles, police said.
When Alvarez-Garcia left the apartment, she went to the post office, brought the trash bags inside, and mailed dozens of packages, according to the criminal complaint.
Undercover cocaine purchase
Officials set up an undercover cocaine purchase from opiateconnect on Feb. 18, authorities said. The order was for 3.5 grams of cocaine, and it cost $275, plus $10 shipping, court records show.
The purchase was made with bitcoin, according to police.
Hernandez-Taylor’s Fusion and Hernandez’s pickup truck were parked in the driveway of the Florida Street home on Feb. 22.
At the same time, Alvarez-Garcia and a child got into her Jeep at the Lincoln Park apartment complex and drove to her parents’ home in the 900 block of Livernois Avenue, the complaint says.
Rivas showed up in the Trailblazer at the Florida Street location around that time, and Hernandez-Taylor exited the driveway, authorities said. Rivas followed her to Alvarez-Garcia’s parents’ house on Livernois Avenue, court records show.
Hernandez-Taylor entered the driveway and parked next to the Jeep, while Rivas drove past and left the area, according to officials.
Alvarez-Garcia exited the home, and Hernandez-Taylor got out of the Fusion to open the trunk, police said. They both walked behind the vehicles for a moment, and authorities were blocked from seeing them, the criminal complaint says.
They closed the trunks, got into their vehicles, and left, officials said.
Hernandez-Taylor followed Alvarez-Garcia to the Lincoln Park post office, where Alvarez-Garcia parked, according to police. Hernandez-Taylor drove past the post office and left the area, the complaint says.
Alvarez-Garcia removed two large trash bags from the back of the Jeep, went into the post office and mailed dozens of packages, according to court records.
The special agent found the package addressed to the location set for the undercover cocaine purchase, authorities said. The package was opened Feb. 23, and inside was the cocaine that undercover officials had ordered from opiateconnect, the criminal complaint says.
The Michigan State Police lab confirmed the substance to be cocaine, court records show.
Officials said they received permission for electronic surveillance of Hernandez-Taylor’s Fusion, which began on March 8 and continued into August.
On March 29, the Fusion arrived at the Livernois Avenue location, authorities said. Hernandez-Taylor and Alvarez-Garcia were seen moving four large black trash bags from the Fusion to the Jeep, according to court records.
The Fusion left the driveway and stopped at the Lincoln Park post office, where the special agent saw both women walk inside, each carrying two trash bags to the clerk at the counter, officials said.
On April 13, officials in a surveillance helicopter above the Florida Street home saw Hernandez-Taylor walk out the back door carrying a large black trash bag, the criminal complaint says. She placed it in her Fusion, then made two more trips from the back door to the Fusion, placing a large trash bag inside the car each time, according to authorities.
The Fusion left the home and went to the Livernois Avenue location, where Alvarez-Garcia was already parked, court records show. The two women moved the three trash bags from the Fusion to the Jeep before driving to the post office, police said.
Alvarez-Garcia carried two of the bags into the post office, walked back outside, and carried the third bag inside, according to officials.
The special agent opened one of the packages for examination and found a vacuum-sealed plastic bag of a white pressed powder, authorities said. The MSP lab confirmed the powder to be 14.7 grams of cocaine, the criminal complaint says.
Undercover cocaine purchase
On April 30, authorities said they initiated an undercover cocaine purchase from opiateconnect on the operation’s private onion site.
An order was placed for 14 grams and seven grams of cocaine, police said. An undercover address accessible by the officials was used, court records show.
The purchase was retrieved from the address on May 9, according to authorities. The package tracking number showed it had been mailed at 10:49 a.m. May 6 from the Lincoln Park post office, officials said.
When agents opened the package, they found two separate vacuum-sealed clear plastic bags — one containing 13.71 grams of cocaine and the other containing 7.11 grams of cocaine, the criminal complaint says.
More drugs mailed on May 2
Meanwhile, officials said they were still watching the Florida Street address. Hernandez-Taylor left the home May 2 and drove to the Livernois Avenue location, police said.
Two large trash bags were moved from the Fusion to the Jeep, and Alvarez-Garcia mailed dozens of suspected drug parcels at the Lincoln Park post office, according to authorities.
Drugs seized on June 3
Hernandez-Taylor again left the Florida Street address on June 3 with one black trash bag, officials said. She put it in the back of her Fusion and drove the Alvarez-Garcia’s apartment complex in Lincoln Park, according to the criminal complaint.
This time, Hernandez-Taylor was followed from Florida Street by a black two-door Mercedes, court records show. The Mercedes drove past the apartment building when Hernandez-Taylor pulled in, officials said.
The garbage bag was transferred to Alvarez-Garcia’s Jeep, and Alvarez-Garcia mailed several suspected drug parcels at the post office, court records show.
One of the packages mailed by Alvarez-Garcia was opened by officials, and it contained green pills identical to those sold by opiateconnect, authorities said. A lab confirmed the pills contained Clonazolam, according to MSP.
Criminal complaint conclusions
Officials said that after watching Hernandez-Taylor for several weeks, they noticed a consistent and frequent pattern. She would leave her home on Parkinson Street in Detroit on weekday mornings and go to the Florida Street address, the criminal complaint says.
Then, Hernandez-Taylor would park in the back, enter through the front door, and spend a few hours inside the home, officials said. She would later carry black trash bags from the back door to her Fusion, police said.
Hernandez-Taylor would leave that location and drive to either Alvarez-Garcia’s apartment complex in Lincoln Park or Alvarez-Garcia’s parents’ home on Livernois Avenue in Detroit, according to authorities.
Alvarez-Garcia would then take possession of the garbage bags, drive to the post office, and mail dozens of suspected drug parcels, court records show.
The criminal complaint concludes there’s probable cause that Hernandez-Taylor should be charged with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances and unlawful possession with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance.