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Dark web organized crime group taken down by BC RCMP FSOC

Three Vancouver Island men have been charged for running a cryptocurrency-funded dark web drug trafficking ring.

In early 2019, BC RCMP Federal Serious and Organized Crime (FSOC) - Cybercrime Operations Group initiated an online undercover investigation into an international dark web organized crime group with the vendor name AlwaysOverweight.

The dark web can be described as the internet’s third hidden layer below the deep web, and the familiar open web. It is accessed through special Internet Protocol (IP) anonymising browsers such as the Tor Browser, and other similar encryption-enabled browsers that hide the user’s digital footprint, making it virtually impossible to pinpoint the source user.

In this case, AlwaysOverweight used cryptocurrency and encrypted messaging applications to cover its tracks while anonymously trafficking a large variety of drugs including methamphetamine, oxycodone, cocaine, MDMA, Xanax, and what was advertised as heroin but was in fact the deadlier opioid, fentanyl, that was mixed with other cutting agents.

While remaining agile and using innovative investigative techniques combined with proven effective conventional methodologies, the FSOC team was able to successfully penetrate the criminal group’s digital barriers and identified a Nanaimo address as being the dark web vendor’s physical location.

As the complex online investigation evolved to street-level drug transactions, FSOC identified the suspects as Kien Trung Pham, Kerry Chang, and Gordon Brooks of Nanaimo.

On February 4, 2020, BC RCMP FSOC arrested Kien Trung Pham, Kerry Chang, and Gordon Brooks, while also executing search warrants on two Nanaimo residences, leading to the seizure of a variety of drugs, packaging, mailing envelopes, documents, cash, computers, and data storage devices.

As a result, Pham was charged with eleven counts of Trafficking a Controlled Substance, and four counts of Possession of a Controlled Substance for the Purpose of Trafficking a Controlled Substance under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). Brooks was charged with seven counts of Trafficking a Controlled Substance, and seven counts of Possession of a Controlled Substance for the Purpose of Trafficking under the CDSA. And Chang was charged with one count of Trafficking a Controlled Substance under the CDSA. Pham, Brooks, and Chang are scheduled to appear in court at the Nanaimo Provincial Courthouse on June 7, 2022.

This is a great example of our ability to quickly adapt and adjust our investigative techniques to meet the rapidly evolving and dynamic world of cybercrime. said Superintendent Richard Bergevin, Officer in Charge of BC RCMP Federal Policing – Major Projects. The dark web is just one of the tools that organized crime uses to avoid detection, and so police need to continuously evolve their technical capabilities to stem the flow of toxic drugs into our communities.

BC RCMP FSOC - Cybercrime Operations Group remains dedicated to protecting Canadians by pursuing criminal networks deep into the dark web and beyond in order to prevent deadly drugs, and other criminal activities from endangering our communities