Darknet Vendor Sentenced in San Diego: Forfeits Crypto Funds

Darknet Vendor Sentenced in San Diego Forfeits Crypto Funds
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Sky Justin Gornik, a 39-year-old from San Diego, has been sentenced to 70 months in prison for trafficking drugs, including fentanyl and carfentanil, via the dark web and for money laundering using cryptocurrencies. As part of his plea, Gornik has forfeited millions of dollars in digital currencies, including bitcoins and Ethereum, which were traced back to his illegal activities.

Key Insights

  • Sky Justin Gornik, aged 39, resides in San Diego, California, was involved in drug trafficking and money laundering using cryptocurrencies.
  • Gornik used several dark web marketplaces for his operations, including Alpha Bay, Trade Route, Abraxas, Evolution, Outlaw Market, and Dream Market.
  • The substances included fentanyl, carfentanil, ketamine, oxycodone, and amphetamine.
  • Gornik’s criminal activities spanned from 2014 until his arrest on June 7, 2017.
  • Gornik was sentenced to 70 months in prison.
  • As part of his plea, Gornik agreed to forfeit millions of dollars in cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, Stratis, Ethereum, and 2350 Monero.
  • Law enforcement seized 1.7 grams of carfentanil from his residence, capable of producing over 86,000 fatal doses.
Sky Justin Gornick

Surprisingly, Gornik pled guilty in the courtroom to charges of conspiring to distribute and sell different types of drugs which include fentanyl, carfentanil, ketamine, oxycodone, and amphetamine through different dark web marketplaces.

The Department of Justice recently announced that Gornik used a variety of very well-known dark web platforms such as Alpha Bay, Trade Route, Abraxas, Evolution, Outlaw Market, and Dream Market to get away with his illegal drug trading activities. Over an extended amount of time, which was later revealed to be two years, Gornik went ahead to purchase 600-1,200 fentanyl gel tablets weekly from Steven Wallace George who is a dark web vendor that was based in Oklahoma. George has also been arrested and will appear in court for manufacturing these tablets using pure fentanyl which was sourced from China.

Juan Munoz, Acting Special Agent in Charge of HSI in San Diego: “Today’s sentencing of Gornik demonstrates the commitment of Homeland Security Investigations and our federal partners to bring these criminals to justice. HSI will continue to aggressively pursue those that continue to violate the law and jeopardize the safety of our communities by selling deadly opioids and other dangerous drugs via the Dark Web.”

Fentanyl was created to be a synthetic painkiller which is far stronger than heroin, and has become a deadly player in the opioid crisis that America has continually been struggling with. It’s very strong, which means that even tiny amounts could lead to the person using it dying, which ends up with a sharp rise in overdose deaths across the USA.

Adam Braverman, U.S. Attorney: “Here law enforcement agents took 86,000 potentially fatal carfentanil doses out of dark web circulation, along with many other dangerous drugs, including fentanyl. We will vigorously prosecute dealers and dark web vendors who cavalierly endanger our community’s residents and first responders by selling deadly opioids.”

Users of fentanyl often don’t realize that the effects are both immediate and very severe. Once taken, one can quickly lead to an overdose, causing confusion, slowed breathing, and unconsciousness, which can be fatal if it is not treated quickly. Because it’s often mixed unknowingly into other drugs, many people take it accidentally, vastly increasing the risk of overdose or people getting addicted to it and thus creating a whole new problem.

Bringing an End to Gornik’s Dark Web Operation

Back in 2017, law enforcement went ahead and did a productive raid on the residence of Sky Justin Gornik, which ended up leading to the discovery and seizure of a small yet very strong amount of drugs. Officers found 1.7 grams of carfentanil, which is one of the most potent opioids available on the dark web and is used mainly for tranquilizing large animals like elephants. Even though it’s a small amount, the strength of carfentanil is so high that just this amount is capable of producing over 86,000 fatal doses.

As part of his plea agreement, Gornik agreed to give up what was said to be “millions of dollars” worth of cryptocurrencies which built up from his drug sales. There were cryptocurrencies found, which included Bitcoins, Stratis, Ethereum, and Monero, and were stored in different accounts at U.S.-based exchanges Bittrex and Poloniex. The Southern District of California Attorney’s Office found that these digital forms of money were Gornik’s earnings from his drug trafficking operations and were implicated in money laundering activities that happened on the dark net.

U.S. Attorney Robert S. Brewer, Jr.: “Dark Web traffickers take note: we will not allow you to lurk in murky corners of the internet, selling and delivering deadly drugs as casually as an Amazon Prime package.”

Gornik has been given a 70-month prison sentence for his crimes which were related to drug trafficking and money laundering.

Summary of Charges

Count 1: Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances Online

  • Penalties: Minimum of 10 years to life in prison, up to $1,000,000 fine, and 5 years supervised release.
  • All property related to the drug trafficking offense, including proceeds and items used in the crime, must be forfeited to the U.S. government.

Count 2: Conspiracy to Launder Money

  • Penalties: Up to 20 years in prison, up to $500,000 fine, and 3 years supervised release.
  • All property involved in the money laundering offense must be forfeited to the U.S. government.

Community Response to Opioid Trafficking

This case shows just how bad the ongoing challenges are and also shows the strong efforts by law enforcement to fight against the ongoing issue of drug trafficking in the dark net, which is still an important focus when it comes to the fight against the opioid crisis and other drug-related problems that are affecting a lot of different communities across the United States.

Fentanyl doesn’t just affect those who use it; it puts strain on the whole community in many different ways, which shows the need for a stronger approach to fight the opioid crisis. There are solutions out there to try and prevent the use of drugs in general, such as Education, prevention, effective law enforcement, and treatment that can be easily accessed. These are crucial to help those at risk and who are affected by the drug trade and reduce how available the drugs are. By understanding and addressing the problem at its core which is both the supply of and demand for fentanyl, we can start fight against and protect our communities from its grasp.

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