LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury has indicted two men 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 19-count indictment charges Rajiv Srinivasan, 37, of Houston, and Michael Ta, 24, of Westminster, 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 the indictment, Srinivasan operated the account “redlightlabs” on the darknet, including the site “Dark0de.” 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 alleges that between February and November 2022, 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 approximately 3,800 drug transactions to approximately 1,500 unique customers. That database documented sales between May and November 2022 totaling approximately 123,188 fentanyl pills, over 143 kilograms 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 the Central District of California from Houston. Ta was released on bond and is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment on December 22.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The statutory maximum sentence for the conspiracy charge alleged in the indictment is life in federal prison.
The FBI investigated this matter. The United States Postal Inspection Service and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas provided substantial assistance.
The investigation in this matter was conducted under the auspices of the FBI-led Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement Team (JCODE), which targets darknet vendors by using sophisticated, high-tech techniques to identify drug traffickers who wrongly believe the dark web allows them to engage in criminal conduct with anonymity. Since its inception in 2018, JCODE investigations have resulted in the arrest of more than 300 darknet drug traffickers, as well as the seizure of more than $42 million in drug-tainted proceeds, over 800 kilograms of narcotics, and approximately 145 firearms.
Assistant United States Attorney Gregg E. Marmaro of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section is prosecuting this case.