An Empire Market vendor residing in New Mexico pleaded guilty to selling MDMA, methamphetamine and LSD through a vendor account on dark web markets.
The defendant Gilberto Melgarejo pleaded guilty in a federal court in Brooklyn, he admitted to conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute. He and his co-conspirator Brooke Gray were operating a vendor account on Wall Street Market and Empire Market under the name “TheQueensHive.” Gray pleaded guilty to the charges on August 10, 2021.
The investigation followed the same pattern seen in all of the darkweb investigations. A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent Allan Liefke wrote that investigators identified the TheQueensHive account on Wall Street Market as a target in 2018. Investigative methods included undercover purchases, viewing surveillance footage, blockchain analysis, subpoenas to financial service companies, and open-source intelligence gathering.
In 2019, undercover DEA agents in New York made several undercover purchases from TheQueensHive account on Wall Street Market. The purchases and deliveries occurred as expected. However, investigators quickly had the defendant on camera.
After they received the package from empire market, they reviewed information from the United States Postal Service (USPS) and found out where the package was mailed from. Investigators reviewed footage obtained from the location and identified a hispanic male who arrived at the gas station in a silver Honda Civic and a package wrapped in a gold foil. After he entered the location, the suspect, identified as Melgarejo, placed the package inside a USPS envelope. Special Agent Liefke noted that the gold foil packaging matched the packaging received by the DEA after ordering methamphetamine from TheQueensHive. Empire market
A search of public records revealed that Gray used a phone number associated with an AT&T account. Records from AT&T revealed that Gray’s mother, who lived at the same address as her father, owned the AT&T account. The DEA knew the phone numbers Gray had contacted between August and September 2019. Although the complaint does not indicate the method used to obtain this information, one can only assume they obtained authorization to install a pen register or trap and trace device. Gray’s number had sent more than 300 SMS messages to a specific number during the timeframe specified above.
Records from the cryptocurrency exchange indicated that the number in question belonged to Melgarejo’s exchange account. The same records revealed that the same phone number had accessed an exchange account under Gray’s name. The DEA also obtained information from CenturyLink that associated the Gray I.P. address with Melgarejo’s cryptocurrency exchange account.
They were both arrested on November 14, 2019, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Although the actual sentence will likely be much shorter, the charges allow for a maximum prison sentence of life.