In Raleigh, North Carolina, 25-year-old Matthew Lee Yensan pleaded guilty to several different charges related to darknet alprazolam distribution. In 2017, the DEA received a tip that a Raleigh man had been producing ‘Xanax’ pills and selling them on the darknet. The DEA then raided Yensan’s house and a storage unit in his name. They found massive quantities of the pressed Xanax pills, hundreds of pounds of alprazolam powder, numerous firearms, and almost one million dollars in cash and Bitcoin.
Federal authorities targeted Yensan in July, 2017, after a so-called ‘tipster’ notified the DEA that Yensan had been pressing massive numbers of alprazolam pills. The informant told the DEA that he or she had helped Yensan move several pill presses into a storage unit in Raleigh. The informant also said Yensan had been selling the pressed ‘Xanax’ bars on the darknet in exchange for Bitcoin. Federal authorities waited until September 2017 to take action. (Hereinafter the brand name “Xanax” will refer to Yensan’s pressed replicas.)
On September 9, a postal inspector intercepted a package headed for Yensan’s address that contained three pounds of marijuana, a criminal complaint explained. Federal authorities with a search warrant, raided Yensan’s house three days later. Inside, law enforcement found 12 pounds of marijuana; two pounds of shatter; wax; prescription pills; a MPS .22 rifle; a Smith and Wesson pistol; a Colt pistol; and two Glock .40 pistols. A further search of the house yielded a safe that contained $300,000 in cash and information that connected the 25-year-old to several cold storage Bitcoin wallets holding more than $700,000.
On the same day, authorities searched a storage unit at the Ample Storage facility in Raleigh. Inside the unit, court documents revealed that authorities found 400 pounds of alprazolam and other Xanax precursors (Xanax consists of only one active ingredient: alprazolam. “Precursors” could have referred to pill binders and other ingredients required to turn powder into Xanax pills. In addition to the alp powder, the DEA found between 5,000 and 70,000 Xanax pills (the number of pills in his criminal complaint and in later court documents varied wildly). They found as many as 300 packages that contained varying amounts of his pressed Xanax pills, three pill presses, and an electronic pill counter.
Yensan pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute, one count of distribution of alprazolam, one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a (drug related) felony, one count of money laundering, and one count of conspiracy to conceal the transaction of the proceeds of a drug crime.
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