Leader of dark web trafficking ring guilty of distributing drugs in Detroit

DETROIT, Mich. (FOX 2) - Victor Hernandez pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute millions of illicit and counterfeit pills earlier this week in Federal Court in Detroit.

Hernandez, 30, of Detroit, admitted his involvement in a conspiracy to distribute illicit substances, a conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, his distribution of counterfeit pills, and the use of firearms in furtherance of the crime.

During the months-long investigation, agents were able to identify that a dark web vendor site was being operated out of the Detroit area.

The dark web marketplace vendor went by the moniker of "opiateconnect." Agents worked to determine the location being used as the distribution hub for illicit scheduled drugs, including cocaine, and various counterfeit drugs. The counterfeit drugs, made to look like alprazolam, commonly referred to as Xanax, were uncontrolled research chemicals not scheduled for human consumption.

Agents also learned that "opiateconnect" was being operated from a residence in Detroit.

A subsequent search warrant revealed a clandestine drug lab. The search resulted in the seizure of approximately one million dollars in cryptocurrency, more than $300,000 in cash, multiple firearms, an industrial size pill press, industrial mixer, controlled substances including cocaine, and counterfeit drugs.

Hernandez pleaded guilty under a plea agreement to four counts: conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, which carries a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years and a maximum of 40 years; conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years; dispensing a counterfeit drug, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years; and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, which carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of five years.

In total, Hernandez is facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years.

"This guilty plea is the culmination of months of collaboration between state and federal law enforcement agencies," said United States Attorney Dawn Ison. "Counterfeit pills pose a unique danger to this community, especially ones that have the appearance of a drug that is so regularly prescribed. We will continue to investigate and prosecute instances where those counterfeit pills are being manufactured illegally in our district to keep our community safe."