A third member of a drug trafficking ring near Boston has pleaded guilty following the collapse of a “highly sophisticated” dark web operation involving more than $1 million worth of bitcoin and copious amounts of narcotics.
In 2019, three Brockton men in their early 20s — Binh Thanh Le, Allante Pires, and Steve Mcall — were arrested after undercover federal agents intercepted their dark web drug ring that had earned at least 59 bitcoin.
Authorities seized more than 20 kilos of MDMA, over 7 kilos of ketamine, and upwards of 10,000 Xanax pills during the entire investigation.
The drug ringleader, Le, pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute the drugs, and was sentenced to eight years in prison and three on supervised leave. He was also forced to give up the 59 bitcoin the operation had made so far — worth $2.5 million when Le was sentenced in June and $1 million today — unwittingly handed to an undercover agent in exchange for cash.
Government officials noted that Le’s Bitcoin forfeiture was the first of its kind in the District of Massachusetts.
“At only 22 years old, [Le] used the dark web to organize a complex drug distribution operation that reached a nationwide customer base and an international network of suppliers,” said Attorney Rachael S. Rollins during Le’s sentencing. Pires pleaded guilty to the same offense at the beginning of June. On Tuesday, so did Mcall.
Feds were able to intercept the drug ring through ordering their own illicit party favors on the trio’s dark web marketplace, named EastSideHigh. After a series of operations, the drug ring selling narcotics for Bitcoin was taken down.
Here’s how things went sideways.
Le’s drug ring tries to wash 59 bitcoin
It began in an office in Stoughton, a town over from Brockton that’s just 17 miles from Boston. Here, Le bulk ordered drugs from Canada, the Netherlands, and Belgium before the trio processed and packaged them for individual delivery.
EastSideHigh, the drug ring’s own marketplace, was how customers across the US bought the drugs for bitcoin: ketamine, cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy), and Xanax.
An undercover agent ordered MDMA and authorities began monitoring Le as he dropped off envelopes into a US Postal Service collection box in Stoughton. Feds intercepted these packages and found a variety of narcotics, as well as an envelope containing a kilogram of cocaine, delivered to Le’s parents’ home, where he lived.
Then on March 27 of 2019, Le unwittingly met with an undercover cop at a hotel in Norwood. The drug ring leader was looking to exchange his 59 bitcoin (worth $200,000 then, $1 million now) for US dollars. When the transfer came through to the Feds, Le was arrested.
While searching Le’s home, police found a container labelled “Lego box for kids” which held vacuum-sealed bags of drugs. They also seized a key belonging to their Stoughton office, where the drug haul was subsequently discovered, as well as Mcall and Pires.
Le was also forced to give up $114,000 in cash, and $42,000 made from selling his BMW.
McCall was arrested when he was found packaging drugs in the Stoughton office before being caught trying to escape wearing latex gloves and a respirator.
McCall, Le, and Pires were all indicted in June 2019.
As of yesterday, Steve McCall is the latest to plead guilty. In a Boston court, a judge heard his plea to the charges of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute MDMA, Ketamine and Xanax.
McCall could face being sentenced for up to to 20 years in prison, getting at least a minimum of 3 years and potentially being fined upwards of $1 million.
McCall is scheduled to be sentenced on September 28 this year while Pires will be sentenced on September 8.