On January 24, Adam Brzozowski, a member of a Xanax smuggling ring, finally faced a Judge for sentencing. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara sentenced Brzozowski to time-served and an additional one-year period of supervised release. In a superseding indictment to a case that only implicated his accomplices, the Grand Jury charged Brzozowski with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and the importation of alprazolam. The two co-defendants faced additional charges that involved Bitcoin money laundering, but Brzozowski dodged those charges.
According to a 2014 criminal complaint, Brzozowski’s accomplices, Zhe Wang and Kevin Szura, sold a significant amount of drugs and laundered hundreds of thousands in Bitcoin. Out of all three University of Buffalo students, Wang received the most initial publicity. Wang not only signed a plea agreement very early on but he—and the yet to be sentenced Szura—highlighted a DoJ press release. A statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York featured the men in “p.” Interestingly, Brzozowski’s name never made the list; his case was non-existent at the time, according to court documents.
Regarding the darknet, U.S. Attorney Hochul said that “this case demonstrates the ever-growing ways in which the virtual world is intersecting with, and being exploited by, real life crime and criminals.” He continued, those involved in such illicit activities should know that law enforcement is prepared to track them into the deep and dark portions of the web in order to bring criminals to justice.”
Instead, another case filled the third slot, albeit on another indictment. The press release announced that Richard Petix, a 30-year-old from Rochester, faced unlicensed money transmitting charges. He sold $200,000 in Bitcoin. Wang and Szura, though, made the list for Bitcoin-related money laundering, drug distribution, and darknet drug importation. Officially listed as conspiracy to distribute controlled substances; money laundering conspiracy; money laundering; and conducting a monetary transaction in criminally derived property, according to the announcement.
Once the case took off, the full extent of the group’s crimes became clear. They, for the most part, sold Xanax—also known as alprazolam. They mentioned MDMA on occasion but paid in cash vs. Bitcoin for the Xanax. After the investigation into the group began, an undercover Homeland Security agent made contact with Wang and Szura. Those two caused an unraveling of any security, according to the criminal complaint—wherein the agent’s codename “UCA-1” replaced the real name.
The group members openly discussed the details of their operation with the undercover agent:
I [UCA-1] asked them what they needed bitcoins for. Szura replied, “bars.” Wang added, “Xanax.” They both replied that they sold Xanax for amounts in the “thousands.” They also said that their Xanax came from Canada.
Additionally, Wang and Szura discussed with UCA – 1 one or more well – known dark web vendors of controlled substances which typically only accept payment of virtual currency such as Bitcoins, and prices of various controlled substances on the websites.
In March 2016, law enforcement intercepted two packages—from Canada—with 3,000 Xanax bars per package. Brzozowski ordered with his real name and address; police officers found him quickly. By the end of the group’s Xanax reign at the University of Buffalo, law enforcement estimated that they sold “80,000 bars over the course of a year.” Officers added that the majority of the Xanax circulated locally, and in doing so, implied that the group sold some remotely. No further details on those specifics surfaced in the available court documents.
Brzozowski, the 23-year-old former UB student, received time served—about six months—so he became a free man after his last hearing. (Assuming that he does not violate the terms of his supervised release.) Wang, as mentioned before, pleaded guilty in exchange for a 24-month sentence in a federal cell. The same went for Szura, too: guilty. Authorities have not revealed the sentencing date.
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