After a two year investigation into drug trafficking in Texas, federal authorities finally arrested a “ring” of both darknet and local drug traffickers. The group consisted of eight members. As collective members, they ordered fentanyl from a laboratory in China then created fake prescription painkillers with a pill press. They sold these on the darknet and many ended up on the streets in Texas.
In 2015, University of Texas at San Antonio Police first encountered these pills around campus. San Antonio Police confirmed these findings, DEA agent Leon Pauley said. Court documents reveal that the authorities arrested and charged all eight members, although one was freed on bail.
Authorities accused two “ringleaders,” Alaa Mohammed Allawi, a 28-year-old Iraqi who had served as an interpreter for the US military, and Benjamin Ita Uno, a 25-year-old indirectly involved in another case with a state senator. Both were charged with ordinary criminal charges relating to drug distribution, possession, etc. The defendants: Alaa Mohammed Allawi; Benjamin Ita Uno; Trevor Alan Robinson; Fernando Padilla Becerra; Mohamed M Al Salihi; Caleb Appiah-Osei; Jason Ray Saucedo; and Eric Lamar Goss.
The DEA (how they got to this point is unclear) wiretapped Allawi early into the investigation. They heard that the group planned to—and ultimately did–move to Houston. Agents heard about darknet vendor profiles which turned out just as any modern darknet vendor case would have: the DEA purchased, undercover, several of the group’s products. According to one agent, the DEA only purchased methamphetamine, alprazolam, and possibly amphetamine salts. More on that to follow. At the time, though, the agency could not legally order fentanyl products through the mail.
“I’ve never seen a case like this,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joey Contreras said. “The quantities they’re able to distribute, and in anonymity, are staggering. “This case involves a ticking time bomb,” he added. “Several people have already died. This is just an unacceptable risk.”
A grand jury returned an indictment with the following charges:
- Conspiracy to Distribute Fentanyl, Methamphetamine, and Cocaine;
- Possession of a Firearm During a Drug Trafficking Crime;
- Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine;
- Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine;
- Possession of a Firearm During a Drug Trafficking Crime.
Not only did he refer to the community and overdose rates, but also the postal workers who handled the massive quantities of fentanyl. With information from the DEA and their legal wiretapping, the United States Postal Service intercepted 70 of such packages.
In May, agents moved in on the group. They raided the gated Houston home for the greater part of the day, seizing massive quantities of drugs and related material. Law enforcement found 0.5 kilograms of fentanyl (hcl or other powder form); 10 kilograms of fake oxycodone pills that contained fentanyl; 0.5 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine; 5 kilograms of Adderall pills laced with methamphetamine; and 6 kilograms of “Xanax pills,” also laced with methamphetamine.
Also, four industrial pill presses and a significant number of weapons:
- Ruger, model LCR, .38 caliber revolver, serial number 541-78935
- Sig Sauer, model P229, .40 caliber pistol, serial number AM19675;
- Glock, model 27, .40 caliber pistol, serial number FXX968;
- New Frontier Armory, model LW-iS, .223 caliber rifle, serial number NLV58177;
- Walther, model PK380, .380 caliber pistol, serial number WB011386;
- Ruger, model P91DC, .40 caliber pistol, serial number 340-01808;
- II and R, model 1871, 12 gauge shotgun, serial number NZ726974;
- Wallther, model P22, .22 caliber pistol, serial number WA047419;
- Smith and Wesson, model SD4OVE, .40 caliber pistol, serial number 11EC9255
And to add another nail to the coffin, they found more than one hundred prepared packages, filled with pills and stamped with the buyers name. Agents separately raided Uno’s apartment wherein they found an illegal “AK-47 style” rifle (modified AR-15?) with a 30-round magazine and another magazine in the closet. They also discovered traces of cocaine and various drug paraphernalia.
A grand jury indicted all eight men. Seven are in custody. Jury selection and trial are set for Monday, September 11, court documents revealed.