Darknet Vendor Sentenced for Distribution of Fentanyl-Laced Pills

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Scottsdale, Arizona, man was sentenced today to 78 months in prison for distributing fentanyl on the darknet.

According to court documents, from August 2021 through May 2022, John McKernan, 32, ran the darknet moniker “KingofKeys” on a darknet market. On this market, he advertised and sold pressed pills that he marketed as oxycodone, but that in fact contained fentanyl. In his profile on the market, McKernan told customers that the pressed pills tested negative for fentanyl. He also advertised pressed Xanax, Cialis, and MDMA. In addition to his distribution on the darknet, McKernan sold fentanyl-laced pills via encrypted messaging applications. 

Between May 2022 and July 2022, law enforcement made controlled purchases from the defendant, which included over 450 counterfeit pills that the defendant purported to be oxycodone. The defendant received payment for the controlled substances in Bitcoin. Once received, law enforcement tested the pills, and all came back positive for the presence of fentanyl.

The darknet, also called the darkweb, is a portion of the Internet that hosts darknet markets or hidden commercial websites. A darknet market operates as a black market, selling or brokering transactions involving legal products as well as drugs, weapons, counterfeit currency, stolen credit card details, forged documents, unlicensed pharmaceuticals, steroids, and other illicit goods.

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division; and Damon E. Wood, Inspector in Charge of the USPIS Washington Division, made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis, III.

The FBI Phoenix Division, USPIS Phoenix Division, and Scottsdale Police Department provided valuable assistance in this case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Call prosecuted the case.

This investigation was conducted by the FBI Washington Field Office’s Hi-Tech Opioid Task Force, which is composed of FBI agents and task force partners, including special agents and officers of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, DEA, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and detectives from local assisting police agencies. The task force is charged with identifying and investigating the most egregious darknet markets, and the vendors operating on the marketplaces who are engaged in the illegal acquisition and distribution of controlled substances, to include fentanyl, methamphetamine, and other opioids.

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