Tip for darknet drug lords: Don't wear latex gloves to the post office
Fentanyl merchant was good at Tor, rubbish in meatspace and at deleting browser history
Delivery is the weakest link in the “dark web” drug trade: the postal habits of a large-scale trader have led to his undoing.
Chukwuemeka Okparaeke is accused of dealing in very nasty stuff: Fentanyl, a high-strength synthetic opioid the Centre for Disease Control says is 50 times the potency of heroin and was responsible for nearly 10,000 deaths in the US in 2015.
Okparaeke may have been a capable Tor user, but his logistical clue needed work: he was caught not because someone linked him to his handle (“Fentmaster”, on a site called the AlphaBay Marketplace), but because wearing latex gloves while depositing large numbers of packages at US post offices got the attention of staff.
He was seen at several post offices in the Middletown area of New York, and because he was bulk-buying priority delivery stamps, staff had also viewed his driver's licence.
The United States Department of Justice's (DoJ's) filing sets out where things went from there. Law enforcement was already interested in the area as a source of “fentanyl analogs”, so the approach from a postal inspector was welcome.
Investigators only needed to place an order with Fentmaster and keep an eye on Okparaeke to tie him to the fentanyl he sent them.
When arrested, Okparaeke's Galaxy S5 carried the tools you'd expect: the Private Internet Access VPN application, the Orbot Tor proxy, and a Bitcoin app.
There were also text messages suggesting Okparaeke realised he was being watched, and tried to recruit someone else to distribute packages on his behalf.
In an act of astonishing naivete, Okparaeke didn't clear his browser history, so police were also able to connect him to a lengthy Reddit post under the handle “bmoreproduct1”, describing his activities as a “darknet drug trader”.
The DoJ media release says Okparaeke is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute large quantities of an analogue of fentanyl”, which if he's found guilty will get him a sentence between ten years and life. ®