Four plead guilty in Kentucky in case of fake drugs, cryptocurrency purchases on dark web

Four people charged in a conspiracy to make fake Xanax tablets and sell them in southeastern Kentucky through the dark web have pleaded guilty.

The final of the four, Reina Chirinos de Urena, pleaded guilty Jan. 12 in federal court in London.

The others charged in the conspiracy, Omar Thomas Wala, Michael Basalyga and Vienna Cavanaugh, pleaded guilty earlier.

All four admitted they took part in a conspiracy to make and sell counterfeit alprazolam, commonly called Xanax, which is used to treat anxiety.

People involved in the conspiracy made pills that looked similar to real tablets and were stamped with numbers used by legitimate manufacturers, but were made from other substances, according to Wala’s plea agreement.

Those substances included two, clonazolam and etizolam, that have no accepted medical use in the U.S., according to the pleas.

Trafficking and abuse of the drugs has become an “imminent hazard” to public safety, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said last year.

The conspiracy involved selling directly to people but also selling the counterfeit drugs on darknet marketplaces. The darknet, or dark web, is a part of the internet sometimes used by criminals, though it also has legitimate uses.

Buyers paid for the drugs with cryptocurrency, including bitcoin, according to court documents.

The conspirators sold drugs across the U.S but were charged in Kentucky based on sales here.

The charging document in the case said the conspiracy operated in Laurel, Knox, Clay and Shelby counties from May 2017 to December 2022.

The court record shows that Basalyga, Cavanaugh and de Urena were arrested in South Florida and Wala was arrested on Long Island, in New York.

Wala agreed as part of his plea to pay $186,100 to the government in lieu of forfeiting a piece of property in Miami-Dade County.

The four also agreed to the government taking property that includes a 2019 Jaguar, money and cryptocurrency and expensive watches and jewelry.

One charge the four pleaded to is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

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