An Orange County man is among two defendants who allegedly used the darknet and encrypted messaging applications to sell over 120,000 fentanyl-laced pills and other drugs to thousands of customers across the country, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Friday.
A 19-count indictment charges Michael Ta, 24, of Westminster, and Rajiv Srinivasan, 37, of Houston, in a conspiracy to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute fentanyl and methamphetamine. Both defendants are also named in various counts alleging the distribution and possession with the intent to distribute both drugs, according to federal prosecutors.
Srinivasan operated the account “redlightlabs” on the darknet, including the site “Dark0de,” the indictment alleges.
He allegedly used the redlightlabs account to advertise and sell counterfeit M30 oxycodone pills containing fentanyl. Srinivasan also allegedly used the encrypted messaging application Wickr to communicate with and sell drugs to customers.
Srinivasan allegedly received virtual currency as payment for the drugs and then routed that virtual currency through cryptocurrency exchanges. The indictment alleges that Ta communicated with Srinivasan about drug orders, obtained fentanyl-laced pills and methamphetamine from sources of supply, stored those drugs in his residence, and mailed out packages with drugs to customers who had ordered them from Srinivasan.
The indictment, filed in Los Angeles federal court, contends that between February and last month, Srinivasan and Ta sold over 7,000 pills to a person they believed was a drug customer, but who was in fact an undercover law enforcement agent. Srinivasan and Ta allegedly maintained a shared electronic document that detailed about 3,800 drug transactions to around 1,500 unique customers, the indictment says.
That database documented sales between May and last month totaling about 123,188 fentanyl pills, over 315 pounds of methamphetamine, and smaller amounts of fentanyl powder, black tar heroin and cocaine, according to the indictment.
FBI agents arrested both defendants last month pursuant to a criminal complaint. Srinivasan was ordered jailed without bond and is being transported to Los Angeles from Houston. Ta was released on bond and is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment Thursday in downtown Los Angeles.
The conspiracy charge carries a sentence of up to life in federal prison, prosecutors noted.