Three men have been jailed after the Met busted a £2m dark web counterfeit drugs operation.
The trip were sentenced to a total of 14 years at Isleworth Crown Court.
The Met Police’s Cyber Crime Unit led the investigation after they received intelligence from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the US that the men were selling pharmaceutical drugs on the internet.
Allen Valentine, his son Roshan Valentine and childhood friend Krunal Patel were producing and selling Benzodiazepines, a type of sedative, which is a Class C drug. They made at least £2 million in illicit profit, the court had heard.
The three also had several accounts on different dark web markets and advertised the sale of Xanax, Diazepam and in the past Valium.
Detectives began the investigation in January 2022 and, soon after, they discovered the three men were visiting a warehouse unit at Acton Business Centre.
It was from here that the drugs were produced, packaged and supplied. The men were operating under the guise of a company called Puzzle Logistics Limited that was formed in 2016, the court had heard.
Each of the men visited the unit on a daily basis, often staying for much of the day. Krunal Patel would frequently leave with large bags, returning 10 to 15 minutes later without the contents of the bags.
Users would purchase the drugs on the dark web, paying in cryptocurrency, which were then posted.
The Cyber Crime Unit has detailed knowledge of the dark web and training in cryptocurrency, allowing them to efficiently progress the investigation.
Detectives utilised specialist cyber tactics to prove it was the Valentines’ and Patel who were making and selling the illegal substances.
They determined the three men converted £2m from cryptocurrency into fiat currency (sterling), the accounts have been frozen by police.
On August 17 2022, Krunal Patel was arrested near to the warehouse, with 15 parcels labelled for posting to addresses across the UK.
Inside those parcels were tablets imprinted “Xanax” and “Teva”, both brand names for licensed medicines within the Benzodiazepine group. Roshan and Allen Valentine were arrested later that same day.
Officers searched the warehouse and found a concealed laboratory where a large amount of equipment and several containers of chemical substances were discovered, along with numerous crates of pills manufactured on site.
The pills were analysed and found to contain Class C drugs from the Benzodiazepine group including Deschloroetizolam, Flubromazepam, Bromazolam and Flualprazolam.
Allen Valentine told the jury he was a doctor and has qualifications in pharmacy, enquiries are currently ongoing to verify the claims.
All three were charged with conspiracy to produce Class C drugs and money laundering offences on 19 August 2022 and were remanded in custody.
Detective Constable Alex Hawkins, of the Met’s Cyber Crime Unit led the investigation. He said:“The three men ran a sophisticated, large scale production of fake pharmaceutical drugs sold on the dark web that appeared to be genuine. Their operation was solely for the greed of those involved bearing no concern for the vulnerabilities of those purchasing these drugs.
“Some of the drugs contained completely different chemicals from those which should be in the genuine tablets; some of them are extremely dangerous.
“This is the first seizure of those chemicals in the UK and as such legislation will be amended later this year to include these drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act as Class A substances. Stopping the manufacturing of these drugs has removed a significant risk to the public.
“We would like to thank pharmaceutical companies Viatris and Teva UK for assisting the Met in our investigation and supporting our prosecution against these dangerous and fraudulent men.
“I’d urge anyone to seek medical advice and obtain a prescription for medication through a doctor. If you buy from the dark web there is no guarantee what is in the substances, as with this case.”
Detective Superintendent Helen Rance leads the Cyber Crime Unit, she said:“Our specialist Cyber Crime Unit are experts at infiltrating the sale of illegal items on the dark web. We work collaboratively with International Law Enforcement partners to ensure operations like this are stopped in their tracks.”
Patel, 40, of Harrow was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment while Roshan Valentine, 39, from Northwood was given a seven-year jail term. Allen Valentine of Harrow was sentenced to 11 years.