In early September, Lawrence J. Laurenzi, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, announced the conviction of a Memphis man for drug distribution crimes. The defendant, a 52-year-old named Duane Anthony Rouch, had trafficked and manufactured illegal substances through the darknet, using “cryptocurrencies”.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) tipped off Memphis Homeland Security (“ICE”) about incoming packages from a Canadian Shipping company that transhipped illegal packages from China to the United States. From March 2015 until December 2016, Rouch had ordered these packages. And in September 2016, when CBP notified ICE of the packages, they revealed that Rouch had ordered 10 other packages to the address of a warehouse in Memphis.
Agents intercepted the packages and found that Rouch had ordered a pill mold in March 2015. Later documents revealed that he had also started ordering drugs from “underground” websites that were “designed to enable users across the world to buy and sell illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services anonymously outside the reach of law enforcement.” He purchased these drugs, later discovered to have been methamphetamine and alprazolam, with what the USAO of the Western District of Tennessee described as “cryptocurrency”. Cryptocurrency, the announcement Acting Attorney explained, was a “form of payment used to conceal the identity of the buyer and seller using third-party vendors.”
The packages from the transhipping company in Canada contained microcrystalline cellulose. The interception of the pill binding agent was not an isolated event; the CBP profiled the packages from the Canadian company and found that Rouch had routinely ordered microcrystalline cellulose. The Canadian transhipping company, according to the CBP, ships pill presses, powders, and chemicals used in the pill pressing process.
Through some undescribed method, one agency that dealt with shipping—ICE, CBP, or even USP(I)S—discovered that the defendant had purchased both alprazolam and methamphetamine on the darknet. The specific details of how the 52-year-old ordered both substances with what was presumably Bitcoin remain unclear. No mention of a package’s interception found its way into the press release. And the evidence presented by the court left somewhat of a gap at the same part story.
The evidence possibly came from a single package found at the warehouse in December 2016. Officers with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee obtained a search warrant for the warehouse on the basis that Rouch had stored drugs in the building. During the raid, officers found the evidence they needed for the recent guilty conviction:
- One (unloaded) Lorcin 9 millimeter pistol;
- One iPhone 6;
- One pill press covered in powder residue;
- Sets of lab equipment;
- Unquantified pipes;
- Materials used in methamphetamine production;
- “Xanax pills” (lacking a “counterfeit” description);
- Five grams of methamphetamine in a mail package.
“The search of Rouch’s iPhone 6 revealed multiple photos/videos consistent with drug trafficking,” the announcement read. Armed with this, a federal jury found the defendant guilty of one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine; one identical charge regarding alprazolam; one count of conspiracy to traffic narcotics; and one charge for possessing a firearm as a felon. Rouch will be sentenced on December 7.