Two-Day Takedown Results in Arrest of Defendants Who Allegedly Packaged and Shipped Fentanyl and Cocaine Bought on Darknet

Four defendants in California and Nevada have been arrested on a four-count federal grand jury indictment alleging they shipped hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of fentanyl-laced pills and cocaine to buyers nationwide who purchased the narcotics on darknet marketplaces, the Justice Department announced today.

Today, law enforcement arrested the following defendants:

Craig Rushton, 23, of Las Vegas; and

Christian McKibben, 20, of Las Vegas.

On Wednesday, the following defendants were arrested:

Alejandro Soto, 21, of Burbank; and

Austin Blacano, 21, of Burbank.

All the defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and cocaine, two counts of distribution of fentanyl, and one count of distribution of cocaine. Soto and Blacano are expected to make their initial appearances today in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles. Rushton and McKibben are expected to make their initial appearances tomorrow in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas.

From at least April 2021 to May 2023, the defendants conspired with Brian McDonald, 23, of Van Nuys, and Ciara Clutario, 23, of Burbank, to traffic fentanyl and cocaine. Specifically, McDonald and Clutario allegedly created vendor profiles on darknet marketplaces to sell fentanyl, cocaine, and other illegal narcotics in exchange for cryptocurrency.

McDonald and Clutario were charged last year in a separate indictment connected to the alleged darknet drug trafficking conspiracy. An August 6 trial date is scheduled in their case.

McDonald and Clutario allegedly monitored and maintained their darknet vendor profiles, including by updating drug listings and shipment options, tracking drug orders received through the profiles, and offloading cryptocurrency received on the darknet marketplaces into cryptocurrency wallets that the co-conspirators controlled.

Soto, Blacano, McKibben, and Rushton allegedly were directed by McDonald and others to package and ship the drugs sold on darknet marketplaces. The defendants allegedly packaged the narcotics at the Burbank residence of McKibben and Rushton.

Through this conspiracy, the defendants sold and shipped hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of narcotics, including fentanyl and cocaine, to drug purchasers across the United States.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant committed a crime. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

If convicted of all charges, the defendants would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and a statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison.

The Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI investigated this matter.

Assistant United States Attorney Declan T. Conroy of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section is prosecuting this case.

 

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