Three Vancouver Island men are facing multiple charges in connection with a dark web drug-trafficking ring that was funded by cryptocurrency.

The years-long undercover investigation into an online drug vendor called AlwaysOverweight began in early 2019.

RCMP said the AlwaysOverweight account was trafficking large amounts of drugs, including meth, cocaine, MDMA, oxycodone, Xanax, and what was listed as heroin but was actually fentanyl mixed with cutting agents.

On February 4th, 2020, Kien Trung Pham, Kerry Chang and Gordon Brooks were arrested and are facing a range of drug trafficking charges.

During the arrest, police executed search warrants on two Nanaimo homes that led to the seizure a variety of items during the searches, including a range of drugs, drug packaging, cash, computers, data storage devices, assorted documents and mailing envelopes.

The dark web is accessed through special anonymizing and encryption-enabled browsers that hide the user’s digital footprint.

In a media release, RCMP described the dark web as the third hidden layer of the internet, after the commonly used open web and the second layer of the deep 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,” RCMP said.

Police were able to penetrate the criminal group’s digital barriers and identify an address in Nanaimo as the dark web dealer’s physical location.

“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.”

RCMP said Pham is facing 11 charges of trafficking a controlled substance and four counts of possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking.

Brooks faces seven counts of trafficking a controlled substances and another seven counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking.

Chang has been charged with one count of a trafficking a controlled substance.

The three men are scheduled to appear in Nanaimo provincial court on June 7th.

“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.”

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