Luis Fernandez has been sentenced to 151 months in prison for participating in a conspiracy to distribute carfentanil, fentanyl, and a fentanyl analogue over the “dark web,” and for possessing a firearm after being convicted of a felony. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is significantly stronger than heroin, and carfentanil is a fentanyl analogue that is approximately 100 times stronger than fentanyl. Fernandez was also ordered to forfeit $269,623 in narcotics proceeds. Fernandez pled guilty on July 30, 2019, before U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote, who imposed the sentence on November 1.
Fernandez and his co-defendant Richard Castro (who pleaded guilty on July 25) sold large quantities of fentanyl and carfentanil to hundreds of individuals across the country, including over the dark web.
According to the allegations in the Superseding Information to which Fernandez pled guilty, public court filings, and statements made in court:
From at least in or about November 2015 through March 2019, Fernandez and his co-defendant Richard Castro conspired to distribute carfentanil, fentanyl, and phenyl fentanyl (an analogue of fentanyl). For most of this period, the conspiracy dealt drugs over the dark web, using the monikers “Chemsusa”, “Chems_usa”, and “Chemical_usa.” Castro was an operator of these online monikers and the leader of this conspiracy. On one dark web marketplace, Dream Market, Castro boasted that he had completed more than 3,200 transactions on other dark web markets, including more than 1,800 on AlphaBay. The customer feedback for “Chemsusa” included, “Extremely potent and definitely the real Carf,” as well as “The Carfent is unbelievably well synthesized, keep up the amazing work.”
In June 2018, Castro, using the “Chemsusa” moniker, informed customers that he was moving his business off of dark web marketplaces and would accept purchase requests for narcotics only via encrypted email. To learn the off-market email address, “Chems_usa” required willing customers to pay a fee. An undercover law enforcement officer paid this fee, obtained the encrypted email address, and placed orders with Castro. Castro’s customers paid him in Bitcoin.
Fernandez managed the conspiracy’s stash house, packaged narcotics, and shipped the narcotics via U.S. mail from the New York City area to hundreds of individuals throughout the United States. For example, in early March 2019, Fernandez was observed dropping several envelopes in a mailbox in Coney Island, New York; law enforcement seized and searched these envelopes, each of which contained carfentanil.
In mid-March 2019, law enforcement searched his residence in the Bronx, New York. During this search, officers found, among other things, the following evidence in his bedroom: mailing labels similar to those found on packages connected to the conspiracy, addresses of customers who had received packages from the conspiracy, and approximately 78 grams of fentanyl analogues and 307.5 grams of u-47700 (an opioid analgesic that is approximately 7.5 times more potent than morphine).
Law enforcement also recovered a fumigation mask and rubber gloves. In a different bedroom of Fernandez’s residence, law enforcement recovered a Model R-73 handgun. Because Fernandez had previously been convicted of a felony (stemming from his sale of cocaine), he was legally prohibited from possessing this handgun.
In imposing sentence, the Court stated that the defendant played a “critical” role in the conspiracy and that he was responsible for “shipping death.”
In addition to his prison term, Fernandez was sentenced to four years of supervised release.