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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Colorado

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, November 25, 2019

Two Men Sentenced To Federal Prison For Buying And Selling Over 50 Kilograms Of Cocaine On The Darknet

Buyers paid in bitcoin cryptocurrency

DENVER – United States Attorney Jason R. Dunn announced that Timothy Howell, age 46, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martinez on November 22, 2019, to 66 months imprisonment and 4 years of supervised release for conspiracy to distribute cocaine, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft.  Howell’s co-defendant, Cavin Mower, age 44, was sentenced by Judge Martinez on September 5, 2019, to 50 months imprisonment and 3 years of supervised release for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and money laundering.

According to the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreements, for over a year, Howell and Mower received kilogram-quantities of cocaine from a darknet cocaine supplier and then re-sold that cocaine to their own customers in Colorado and across the country via their own darknet vendor account.  Together, Howell and Mower shipped nearly 50 kilograms of cocaine to their customers through the U.S. Mail, for which they were paid in bitcoin.  In addition, during this criminal activity, Howell stole the identity of another person and used it to, among other things, gain access to a TSA-controlled area of an international airport to board a flight to Denver.

Howell and Mower laundered the bitcoin proceeds in primarily two ways.  First, they used a website that allowed them to purchase gift cards that could be used to buy goods and services.  Second, they exchanged bitcoin for cash using the services of an international money transfer company. 

Howell and Mower were both arrested on July 19, 2018 and have been in custody.

“This case demonstrates that drug dealers can’t hide from the law, including on the darknet,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn.  “If you are, we will find you, prosecute you, and send you to federal prison.”

“Drug dealers believe advances in technology can hide their illicit dealings in the dark web and by using cryptocurrency to further their criminal activity,” said Steven Cagen, Special Agent in Charge, HSI Denver. “Today’s sentencing sends a warning to criminals that no matter how sophisticated they believe they are, we will find them and bring them to justice, and they can’t hide from us online.”

“Narcotics trafficking and money laundering through the dark web are an ever increasing method for criminal organizations,” said IRS Special Agent in Charge Andy Tsui.  “Special Agents with IRS-Criminal Investigation are highly adept at disrupting the illegal financial activities individuals try to conceal through the dark web and will continue to work diligently to stop these criminals in their cyber tracks.”

“Postal Inspectors, especially here in Colorado, have been at the forefront of dark web investigations for years, bringing to justice those who use the U.S. mail to distribute illegal narcotics behind the dark net’s false veil of anonymity,” said Bill Hedrick, Inspector in Charge of the Denver Division of the  U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “This sentence is a result of the hard work from our Postal Inspectors to bring these drug dealers to justice,” said Hedrick.

This case was investigated by the Denver Digital Currency and Darknet Working Group, comprised of agents from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the IRS-Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI).  Other agencies assisting the working group included IRS-CI in Phoenix Arizona and USPIS and HSI in Nashville, Tennessee. 

The defendants were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Surratt.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Jeff Dorschner Spokesman, Public Affairs Officer U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado 303-454-0243 direct; 303-454-0400 fax
Press Release Number: 
CASE NUMBER: 18-cr-00481
Updated November 25, 2019