In an indictment announced today by the Justice Department, a federal grand jury has charged a duo from the San Fernando Valley with using darknet marketplaces to sell fentanyl-laced pills and cocaine. The two individuals, Brian McDonald and Ciara Clutario, allegedly conspired to sell drugs via online platforms such as “White House Market,” “ToRReZ,” and “AlphaBay,” using aliases to create vendor profiles and receiving cryptocurrency in exchange for illegal drugs. McDonald and Clutario are facing charges including conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and cocaine, distribution of fentanyl and cocaine, and possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The indictment provides a detailed account of their alleged activities, including the recruitment of accomplices and the tracking of drug orders received online. If convicted, the defendants could face mandatory minimum sentences of 15 and 10 years, respectively, in federal prison.
Federal Grand Jury Indicts San Fernando Valley Duo Who Allegedly Used Darknet Marketplaces to Sell Fentanyl and Cocaine
LOS ANGELES – A San Fernando Valley man and woman who allegedly used darknet marketplaces to sell hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of fentanyl-laced pills and cocaine to buyers nationwide have been indicted by a federal grand jury, the Justice Department announced today. Brian McDonald, 22, of Van Nuys, whose aliases include “Malachai Johnson,” “SouthSideOxy,” and “JefeDeMichoacan,” and Ciara Clutario, 22, of Burbank, were charged in an eight-count indictment returned Wednesday.
Both defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and cocaine, five counts of distribution of fentanyl, and one count of distribution of cocaine. McDonald also is charged with one count of possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. McDonald has been in federal custody since his arrest in this case on May 4, and his arraignment is scheduled for May 25 in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles. Clutario is expected to make her initial appearance in the coming weeks.
Identification of Defendants
The defendants in this case are Brian McDonald, a 22-year-old resident of Van Nuys, and Ciara Clutario, a 22-year-old resident of Burbank. McDonald is known by various aliases, including “Malachai Johnson,” “SouthSideOxy,” and “JefeDeMichoacan.”
Both defendants have been charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and cocaine, five counts of distribution of fentanyl, and one count of distribution of cocaine. Additionally, McDonald is also charged with one count of possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
Arraignment and Initial Appearance
McDonald, who has been in federal custody since his arrest, is scheduled to be arraigned on May 25 in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles. Clutario is expected to make her initial appearance in the coming weeks.
Duration of Conspiracy
According to the indictment, the conspiracy to sell fentanyl and cocaine via darknet marketplaces, such as “White House Market,” “ToRReZ,” and “AlphaBay,” lasted from at least April 2021 until May 2023.
Darknet Marketplaces Used
The defendants allegedly used the darknet marketplaces “White House Market,” “ToRReZ,” and “AlphaBay” to facilitate the sale of illegal drugs. These marketplaces provided a platform for the defendants to connect with buyers and conduct transactions using cryptocurrency.
Creation of Vendor Profiles
McDonald, using aliases, created vendor profiles on the darknet marketplaces to sell illegal drugs in exchange for cryptocurrency, as stated in the indictment. These profiles allowed the defendants to establish a presence on the marketplaces and attract potential customers.
Monitoring and Maintenance of Profiles
The indictment alleges that McDonald and Clutario were responsible for monitoring and maintaining the darknet vendor profiles. This included updating drug listings, managing shipment options, tracking orders, and handling the receipt of cryptocurrency payments.
Recruitment of Accomplices
McDonald allegedly recruited and hired accomplices, including Clutario, to assist with packaging and shipping the narcotics sold on the darknet. These accomplices played a role in the day-to-day operations of the drug trafficking conspiracy.
Text Message Evidence
Communication About Sales Performance
According to the indictment, McDonald and Clutario communicated about the performance of their darknet drug sales through text messages. One week after McDonald created a darknet vendor profile, he texted Clutario to inform her that their sales were “flourishing.”
Volume of Drug Orders
The text messages referenced in the indictment suggest that the defendants received a significant number of drug orders. McDonald allegedly texted a co-conspirator that he had just sold 20,000 pills to customers, and in another instance, he mentioned having 34 drug orders that needed to be fulfilled.
Conspiracy’s Financial Goals
In text messages to Clutario, McDonald discussed the financial goals of the conspiracy. He stated, “i’m really tryna make like 5 mil” in reference to the amount of money he aimed to make from the drug sales.
Proceeds and Drug Shipment
Conversion of Cryptocurrency
After the drug sales, the proceeds were allegedly converted from cryptocurrency into cash. The indictment states that McDonald and Clutario stored the converted proceeds at their respective residences.
Storage of Proceeds
The converted proceeds from the drug sales were allegedly stored by McDonald and Clutario. The exact methods and locations of storage were not detailed in the available information.
Shipment of Fentanyl and Cocaine
The defendants are accused of shipping fentanyl and cocaine that were sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The indictment does not provide specific details on how the drugs were packaged or shipped.
McDonald allegedly possessed firearms, including two gold-plated handguns. One of the handguns reportedly did not have a serial number. The indictment suggests that these firearms were used to protect McDonald’s drug trafficking business and the proceeds from drug sales made on darknet marketplaces.
Protection of Drug Trafficking Business
The possession of firearms by McDonald underscores the alleged involvement of weapons in protecting the drug trafficking operation. The indictment suggests that McDonald sought to safeguard both the operation itself and the profits derived from it.
Presumption of Innocence
It is important to note that the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. An indictment contains allegations but does not establish guilt.
Mandatory Minimum Sentences
If convicted of all charges, McDonald and Clutario would face mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years and 10 years, respectively, in federal prison. These mandatory minimum sentences reflect the seriousness and severity of the alleged crimes.
Statutory Maximum Sentence
In addition to the mandatory minimum sentences, each defendant would also face a statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison if convicted of all charges. The potential for a life sentence highlights the gravity of the charges.
FBI and DEA
The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) are the investigating agencies responsible for this case. Their combined efforts have contributed to the identification, investigation, and indictment of the defendants.
This investigation is part of the JCODE (Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement) initiative. JCODE, led by the FBI, aims to detect, disrupt, and dismantle major criminal enterprises that rely on the darknet for trafficking opioids and other illicit narcotics. The initiative also focuses on identifying and dismantling supply chains associated with these criminal enterprises.
Assistant United States Attorneys
Assistant United States Attorneys Declan T. Conroy and Ian V. Yanniello of the General Crimes Section are the prosecutors handling this case. Their experience and expertise in federal criminal prosecution will contribute to ensuring a fair and thorough legal process.
Public Information Officer
For more information about this case or to request additional details, please contact Ciaran McEvoy, Public Information Officer, at email@example.com or (213) 894-4465.