Dark Web Vendor of Illegal Narcotics Indicted for Distributing Heroin and Cocaine in Exchange for Bitcoin

4 mins read
FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

A three-count indictment was unsealed today in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, charging Edison Hernandez, also known as “dragoncove,” “originaldragoncove,” “theoriginaldragoncove” and “Nino,” with distribution and possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine, as well as delivery and distribution of heroin and cocaine by means of the internet.  These first two counts relate to Hernandez’s alleged activities on the dark web starting in January 2013. 

The third count of the indictment separately charges Hernandez, Michael Caruso, and Raymer Ynoa with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, ketamine, and 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) through a door-to-door drug delivery service.  A separate criminal complaint was also unsealed today, charging Irvin Hernandez with being a member of the same door-to-door drug delivery conspiracy. 

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Ricky J. Patel, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI); and Daniel B. Brubaker, Inspector-in-Charge, New York Division, United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), announced the charges.

“As alleged, Edison Hernandez went to great lengths to conceal his identity so he could send thousands of packages containing dangerous drugs throughout the country and team up with his co-conspirators to deliver them door-to-door in New York City,” stated United States Attorney Peace.  “Hiding behind the dark web, encryption services, or BitCoin will not stop this Office from rooting out those who flood our communities with illegal and hazardous narcotics.” 

Mr. Peace expressed his appreciation for the significant contributions provided by the New York City Police Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations Division, Drug Enforcement Administration, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department & Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department.

“Hernandez is alleged to have used complex technology such as the dark web, cryptocurrency, and encrypted messaging applications to conceal his actions. Today’s enforcement actions are examples to high-tech criminals that no matter how well-hidden you believe you are, you are not beyond the reach of the law,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York Acting Special Agent in Charge Patel.  “HSI and our partners will continue to work tirelessly to keep deadly narcotics out of our communities, no matter where they are sold – on the street corner or from the virtual corners of the dark web.”

USPIS Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Division Brubaker said: “The defendants thought the dark web marketplace would hide their illicit activities, but Postal Inspectors and our law enforcement partners brought their criminal enterprise to light. We are committed to the fight against the illegal sale of dangerous narcotics and will work in coordination with our partner agencies to expose anyone who tries to hide behind the veil of the dark web. We will use every resource available to us to investigate and prosecute anyone who uses the mail for illegal purposes. Today, the defendants learned the hard way that once their crimes left the dark web and entered the real world, Postal Inspectors and our law enforcement partners were there waiting to take them down.”

Background on Dark Web Marketplaces

The internet contains online marketplaces for narcotics and other illegal items that exist on the dark web, a part of the internet located beyond the reach of traditional internet browsers and accessible only through the use of networks designed to conceal user identities.  Silk Road, AlphaBay, Dream Market and Wall Street Market were some of these marketplaces that have since been taken down.  All of these sites were large global dark web marketplaces that functioned like conventional e-commerce websites but were geared towards the trafficking of contraband.  Vendors advertised the sale of illegal narcotics and other contraband; buyers purchased the illegal narcotics and contraband; buyers paid for the purchased goods using digital currency; and vendors shipped the goods through the United States mail and other means of delivery.  These dark web marketplaces required users to trade in digital currencies, primarily Bitcoin, and the marketplaces did not allow for transactions in official, government-backed fiat currency. 

Vendors and buyers on dark web marketplaces typically operated under anonymous monikers.  However, vendors received ratings from buyers of narcotics based on, among other things, the quality of contraband, reliability of delivery and volume of traffic.  In addition, vendors received rankings from the marketplace administrators based on user input. 

Edison Hernandez’s Dark Web Vendor Operation

As alleged, defendant Edison Hernandez was a highly rated vendor of illegal narcotics on Silk Road, AlphaBay, Dream Market and Wall Street Market.  From January 2013 until April 2019, Hernandez advertised and sold heroin and cocaine to customers in the United States through these dark web marketplaces. 

Hernandez concealed his criminal activity by accepting payment only in the form of Bitcoin and operating under the online monikers “dragoncove,” “originaldragoncove” and “theoriginaldragoncove”.  Hernandez shipped packages under fictitious names and directed customers to contact him through encrypted messaging services.  

The defendant completed thousands of transactions on SilkRoad, AlphaBay, Dream Market and Wall Street Market and regularly received high ratings and positive reviews from buyers. 

The Defendants’ Operation of a Door-to-Door Drug Delivery Service

As charged in the indictment and the complaint, between February 2019 and January 2022, defendants Edison Hernandez, Michael Caruso, Raymer Ynoa and Irvin Hernandez separately operated a door-to-door drug delivery service in the New York City area.  The defendants advertised their service with the name “Nino & Viktor’s Pastry Shoppe.”  The service offered customers an array of different drugs for sale, including cocaine, methamphetamine, ketamine, and MDMA.  After customers ordered drugs over an encrypted messaging app, a deliveryman would arrive later the same day to distribute the drugs.   

The charges in the indictment and complaint are allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section.  Assistant United States Attorney Andrew D. Wang is in charge of the prosecution and Assistant United States Attorney Madeline O’Connor and Brendan King of the Office’s Asset Recovery Section are handling forfeiture matters.

The Defendants:

EDISON HERNANDEZ also known as “dragoncove,” “originaldragoncove,” “theoriginaldragoncove” and “Nino”
Age: 46
Brooklyn, New York

MICHAEL CARUSO
Age: 42
Brooklyn, New York

RAYMER YNOA
Age: 32
Brooklyn, New York

IRVIN HERNANDEZ
Age: 44
Brooklyn, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket Nos. 22-CR-245 (CBA) and 22-MJ-717