A half-dozen Los Angeles-area residents are facing federal charges of distributing drugs throughout the United States by way of a “dark web” online marketplace allegedly operating from a gated community in Altadena, federal officials announced Friday.
William James Farber, also known as Bill Danzerian, 37, of Los Angeles, and Bryan Anthony Lemons, 29, also of Los Angeles, were charged in Fresno federal court on Thursday with conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to launder money, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Richard Thomas Martinsen, 29, of Studio City; Michael Angelo Palma, 22, of Los Angeles; Michele Pickerell, 47, of Altadena; and Faysal Mustafa Alkhayat, 31, of Woodland Hills, were charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substances, according to the DOJ.
An indictment alleges that Farber and his co-conspirators — operating under the name PureFireMeds — sold narcotics, including marijuana, cocaine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, psilocybin, ecstasy, LSD, Xanax, and ketamine, on dark web marketplaces, including Silk Road and AlphaBay.
After Silk Road was shut down by law enforcement in October 2013, Farber and his co-conspirators allegedly began selling on the AlphaBay dark web marketplace under the name HumboldtFarms. It became one of the largest vendors on AlphaBay, completing more than 78,000 orders of marijuana on the site to customers throughout the United States and the world, according to court documents.
Palma, Martinsen and others allegedly used Pickerell’s home in La Vina, a 271-home gated community in Altadena, to assemble an estimated 1,000 parcels of marijuana a week that were mailed throughout the United States. Farber and Lemons exchanged at least $7 million in the online digital currency Bitcoin for cash that was the proceeds of the HumboldtFarms drug distribution, the document alleges.
Dark web sites such as AlphaBay operate on a special network of computers on the internet, distributed around the world, that is designed to conceal the true internet addresses of the computers accessing the network, and, thereby, the locations and identities of the network’s users. AlphaBay was shut down by law enforcement last month.
If convicted, all six face up to 45 years in prison and $5 million in fines. Farber and Lemons would face up to an additional 20 years in prison if found guilty of the money-laundering charge, prosecutors said.
–City News Service