Convicted dark web vendor Chrissano Leslie, 26, was sentenced last Tuesday and will likely be deported after his release. His defense framed him not as a big drug trafficker, but a street-level dealer who just so happened to sell heroin, fentanyl and other drugs thanks to the dark web.
Prosecutors portrayed Leslie as standing on a high tech street corner on a sophisticated online marketplace they called “an anonymous eBay” for criminals.
Senior U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley said he was concerned with a recent spike in heroin and fentanyl abuse. “People are overdosing and dying,” said the judge. “The word has to go out … that if you do get caught [dealing drugs], the consequences are very severe.”
Leslie, 26, from Miramar, Florida enjoyed 98 percent positive feedback rating on drug dealing profile on the dark web. Investigators said his dedication to customer service ultimately led to his downfall. Leslie delivered the drugs via the U.S. Post Office’s priority mail.
When a customer of complained his package was never delivered, Leslie logged on to the postal service’s online tracking feature to locate the parcel. Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA] Agents were able to trace Leslie’s computer and prove someone used the internet service at his home to check the package’s status, argued prosecutors.
Among Leslie’s customers were undercover DEA agents. Records show they successfully purchased drugs from Leslie. UC’s followed Leslie to a Hollywood, Florida post office where they watched the suspect ship their order, as well as four other packages, containing drugs.
Arrested in July at his home, Leslie pleaded guilty to four federal charges of drug-dealing, money-laundering conspiracy and aggravated identity theft. He admitted to using multiple aliases online, such as “owlcity”, and traded across multiple dark web marketplaces.
He sold anti-anxiety pills, fentanyl, “China White” heroin, cocaine and flakka. Sentencing guidelines would see to it that Leslie served between 7 ¼ to 8.5 years in federal prison. Leslie’s attorney, Robert Trachman, argued Tuesday for four years in prison.
Authorities discovered a detailed transaction log of approximately 1,000 transactions. The defense demonstrated most were for a small amount of drugs approximating about three pounds of illegal substances and 1,100 pills sold over multiple years.
Prosecutor Frank Maderal recommended five years and three months in prison. He suggested Leslie be used as an example to deter others.
“It’s an incredibly difficult thing to police because anybody with access to a computer and a mailbox can become a drug dealer,” Maderal said, while arguing some might feel more comfortable buying drugs online than on the street. Bitcoin was explained to the judge.
More than a dozen family and friends supported Leslie in the courtroom, including his mom and his wife, who told the Judge that Leslie was a hard-working and intelligent young man who made a big mistake. His mother looked her son in the eye quoting scripture while begging the judge for mercy.
Leslie told the judge he was ashamed. A Jamaican citizen living in South Florida, Leslie says he lost his work permit and green card due to a marijuana arrest and having returned to Jamaica to care for his grandfather. The drug dealing he did because he thought it was “either [do] that or starve.”
Leslie, in asking for mercy, told the judge: “I’m confident that the next chapter in my life will be a better one.”
Judge Hurley and the prosecutor were moved by Leslie’s remorse, as well as the support of his family. But, citing an “extraordinary increase” in heroin addiction and overdoses when the drug is mixed with the powerful drug, fentanyl, he chose to sentence Leslie to five years and 10 months in federal prison.
The judge warned him immigration authorities will likely deport him after he serves his sentence.
Featured image from Shutterstock.