The overdose of an 18-year-old from Portland, Oregon led police to a darknet vendor in South Carolina. In mid-February, the Portland Police Bureau Drugs and Vice Division (DVD) responded to a scene where an individual found the recently deceased Aisha Zughbieh-Collins. On the scene, law enforcement found that she overdosed on U-47700. They then gathered her electronic devices and started the inevitable search for the supplier.
Investigators concluded that she ordered the drugs from a darknet vendor and the vendor shipped the product to her through the United States Postal Service (USPS). They identified the vendor’s screen name: PeterTheGreat. The DVD “immediately” partnered with the Portland Police-based High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Interdiction Taskforce. The Taskforce combined forces from Homeland Security and the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).
The task force (hereinafter used in reference to all relevant authorities) discovered that the newly identified vendor, PeterTheGreat (PTG), sold from Greenville, South Carolina. Sources who interacted with PTG reported that packages often had a “Greenville return address.” This has not been confirmed by anyone besides local news outlets and individuals who saw PTGs packages.
An often used tactic, though, in cases like this, centers around undercover buys. Law enforcement and USPS establish connections between a specific package and a post office—and ultimately a person. It starts with an order by case investigators. The vendor ships the package. Then USPS records the location from where the package originated. Whatever the case may be in this scenario, the official press release left it out. On April 24 and 25, the task force in Greenville intercepted “dozens of parcels containing suspected drug shipments” after a suspect dropped them off.
Investigators obtained search warrants for the packages and the house of two suspects: Theodore Khleborod and Ana Milena Barrera of Greenville. Police intercepted Barrera in the “process of mailing additional parcels containing suspected drug shipments.” They arrested her and moved in on Khleborod. Officers swarmed the duo’s home and arrested the second suspect on the scene.
The residence proved beyond useful in building a case against the pair of suspects. The pictures revealed a substance labeled “U-47.” A safe assumption to make would be that the labels referred to U-47700, an opioid slightly stronger than morphine and much weaker than fentanyl. Investigators found “large quantity of drug evidence” and evidence that linked Khleborod and Barrera to PeterTheGreat. More specifically: investigators reported that the evidence proved the two operated the PeterTheGreat account. Some of the evidence came in the form of packages of drugs, ready—or almost ready—for shipment. They “shipped packages of drugs to thousands of locations across the United States,” investigators reported.
The press release:
“The investigation into the activities of Khleborod and Barrero continue, with the emphasis being placed on all other fatal overdose cases that may be linked to Khleborod and Barrero and to exploit the criminal evidence derived from the Greenville search warrant. Khleborod and Barrero remain in federal custody in Greenville, South Carolina.”
PeterTheGreat was active on Alphabay (which is a popular darknet market site but also one which drugs and other stolen goods are sold at a premium), even after the vendors were arrested. Authorities seized addressed packages twice and gathered a significant number of packages at Khleborod and Barrera residence. Those from the house may not have been addressed. In addition, numerous Reddit users said they placed orders within one week of the writing of this article—a time period where law enforcement owned the PeterTheGreat account. While rounding up hundreds of small-time buyers wastes law enforcement’s time; resellers, including those on Alphabay, are very likely targets for police.
Khleborod’s attorney declined to comment but Barrero’s attorney said the following:
“Right now, all we have heard are allegations against Ms. Barrero. Once her and I have had an opportunity to review any proof against her, we may have more to say. But there are always two sides to every story, so I look forward to seeing what exactly the Portland Police are referring to.”
As of the late afternoon on May 5 (in Greenville, South Carolina), Alphabay has banned the account.