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Woman Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Distribute Millions of Illicit Pills on Dark Web

On July 19th 2023, Carolyn Hernandez-Taylor has entered a guilty plea for conspiring to distribute millions of illicit and counterfeit pills, as announced by United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison. The announcement was made in the presence of Special Agent in Charge Angie M. Salazar of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Detroit, and Special Agent in Charge Orville Greene of Drug Enforcement Administration, Detroit Field Division.

Ms. Hernandez-Taylor, a resident of Detroit aged 29, has admitted to her involvement in a conspiracy to distribute illicit substances, a conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, and distribution of counterfeit pills before United States District Judge Linda V. Parker.

As per court records, investigators have identified a dark web marketplace named "opiateconnect." Over a months-long investigation, investigators have worked to locate the distribution hub for illicit drugs, including cocaine and counterfeit drugs. The counterfeit drugs, made to look like alprazolam, were, in fact, uncontrolled research chemicals not scheduled for human consumption.

Investigators have determined that "opiateconnect" was operated from a residence in Detroit, Michigan. A subsequent search warrant has revealed a clandestine drug lab. The search has resulted in the seizure of approximately $1,000,000 in cryptocurrency, more than $300,000 in U.S. currency, multiple firearms, an industrial size pill press, industrial mixer, and controlled substances, including cocaine and counterfeit drugs.

Ms. Hernandez-Taylor has pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to three counts: (1) conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, which carries a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years and a maximum of 40 years; (2) conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years; and (3) dispensing a counterfeit drug, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Backstory of identification and arrest

As per the court records, opiateconnect specializes in vending substantial quantities of unadulterated cocaine and compressed Xanax. The vendor carries out its transactions on its exclusive onion site and through Jabber direct messaging. The authorities have identified Carolyn Hernandez-Taylor of Detroit as an operative member of the organization, whereas Lynn-Maire Alvarez-Garcia of Lincoln Park is categorized as an "associate" of Hernandez-Taylor.

The inquiry has additionally implicated Salvador Rivas, who purportedly drove in unison with Hernandez-Taylor during the transportation of drugs to Alvarez-Garcia. Hernandez-Taylor has been observed frequenting suspected drug processing and packaging sites, from where she would frequently depart with refuse bags brimming with drug parcels intended for dispatch to dark web customers throughout the United States. Law enforcement officials have intercepted a multitude of packages containing drugs vended by opiateconnect, encompassing cocaine and pressed Xanax.

Alvarez-Garcia has been identified as the recipient of drug parcels from Hernandez-Taylor, who is alleged to have transported them to the Lincoln Park post office for mailing. The investigation has uncovered multiple instances of drug exchanges between the two individuals.

On December 2, 2021, surveillance was conducted at Alvarez-Garcia's residence in Lincoln Park. Hernandez-Taylor arrived in her Ford Fusion and parked behind Alvarez-Garcia's Jeep Patriot. The two individuals exchanged a black garbage bag, which Alvarez-Garcia subsequently mailed along with 13 packages. A similar exchange between Hernandez-Taylor and Alvarez-Garcia occurred on December 6, where two full black trash bags were transferred from Hernandez-Taylor's Fusion to Alvarez-Garcia's Jeep, and approximately 24 packages were mailed.

Another drug exchange took place on January 18, 2022. Hernandez-Taylor was observed leaving her residence and driving to Alvarez-Garcia's apartment building in Lincoln Park, where two trash bags were transferred from the Fusion to the Jeep. Alvarez-Garcia then proceeded to mail several dozen parcels at the post office.

On February 18, 2022, law enforcement conducted an undercover operation to purchase cocaine from opiateconnect. The transaction involved the acquisition of 3.5 grams of cocaine, which was paid for using bitcoin. On February 22, Hernandez-Taylor and Alvarez-Garcia were observed engaging in a drug exchange, during which trash bags were transferred from the Fusion to the Jeep. Subsequently, Alvarez-Garcia mailed several packages, one of which contained the cocaine that had been ordered by the undercover officials.

On April 13, 2022, law enforcement observed Hernandez-Taylor carrying multiple black trash bags from her residence to the Fusion, before delivering them to Alvarez-Garcia, who then mailed several suspected drug parcels at the post office. One of the intercepted packages contained 14.7 grams of cocaine.

On March 8, 2022, electronic surveillance was authorized for Hernandez-Taylor's Fusion. Subsequent surveillance operations revealed consistent patterns of Hernandez-Taylor visiting various locations before transferring trash bags to Alvarez-Garcia, who would then mail suspected drug parcels. Based on the evidence gathered, the criminal complaint concludes that there is probable cause to charge Hernandez-Taylor with conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substances.