United States Attorney Matthew D. Krueger for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced that on Monday, September 9, 2019, Christopher D. Bania, (age: 26) of Hobart, Wisconsin, pled guilty to a possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances charge. At the hearing, Bania acknowledged selling a variety of illegal drugs nationwide on the “dark web” in exchange for cryptocurrency.
Bania faces up to 20 years imprisonment, a $1 million fine, and from 3 years to a lifetime on supervised release. Bania will also forfeit approximately $1.5 million worth of cryptocurrency previously seized by the government, along with $85,000 in U.S. Currency. He will be sentenced on December 9, 2019, at the Federal Courthouse in Green Bay.
According to the plea agreement, Bania sold narcotics including MDMA (“Ecstacy”), cocaine, DMT, ketamine, LSD, MDA, methaqualone, marijuana, and a variety of other controlled substances. To make his sales Bania utilized dark web marketplaces, including Dream Market, Zion, Wall Street, Hansa, Trade Route, and Alpha Bay. Alpha Bay and Hansa were shut down by law enforcement in July of 2017.
The dark web is a part of the internet that is unreachable by traditional search engines and web browsers. Websites on the dark web have complex web addresses generated by a computer algorithm and must be accessed using special software that is capable of connecting to “The Onion Router” network, or “TOR” for short. The TOR network is encrypted and routes internet traffic dynamically through a series of computers around the world, concealing the true Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of the computers accessing the network and thereby making internet use virtually anonymous. This perceived anonymity has led to a proliferation of criminal activity on dark web marketplaces, where users can find vendors, like Bania, offering illegal goods and services for sale.
“Today’s guilty plea demonstrates the value of collaboration among state, local, and federal agencies throughout the criminal justice system. Each entity within this investigation played a critical role in unmasking the offender who preyed on the vulnerable from behind a computer,” remarked Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Special Agent in Paul E. Maxwell, Jr.
“As this case shows, drug dealers use modern technology to further their illegal activities,” said Attorney General Josh Kaul. “But no matter what method drug dealers use to try to evade detection, law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin are committed to stopping them.”
This case was a joint investigation of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Wisconsin Department of Justice – Division of Criminal Investigation, the Brown County Drug Task Force, the Hobart/Lawrence Police Department, and the Oneida Police Department. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Scott J. Campbell, Benjamin W. Proctor, and Daniel R. Humble.
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