Gilberto Melgarejo (aka “THEQUEENSHIVE”) pleaded guilty today in federal court in Brooklyn to conspiracy to distribute and possess illegal drugs with intent to distribute them over the “dark web.” Co-defendant Brooke Gray pleaded guilty to the same charge on Aug. 10, 2021. Melgarejo and Gray were involved in dozens of transactions on the Dark Web, selling a range of illicit drugs including methamphetamines, fentanyl, heroin, LSD, and MDMA, and taking payment in the form of cryptocurrency. Both defendants pleaded guilty before United States Supreme District Judge Margo K. Brodie. They were arrested on November 14, 2019, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Ray Donovan, Special Agent-in-Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, New York Division (DEA), announced the guilty pleas.
“With today’s guilty pleas, the defendants have admitted that they trafficked in potentially lethal narcotics on the dark web in a vain attempt to conceal their illegal and dangerous activities from law enforcement,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kasulis. “As these defendants have learned, drug traffickers who distribute their poison online cannot evade law enforcement by hiding in the dark corners of the Internet. This office, along with its law enforcement partners, will continue to aggressively target drug traffickers who contribute to the opioid epidemic and harm our communities.”
“This investigation proves that there is no hiding on the dark web when it comes to law enforcement’s efforts to save lives. Their selling point was anonymity, but law enforcement followed the trail of ‘THEQUEENSHIVE’ to the defendants’ base of operations in Albuquerque, New Mexico. With overdoses on the rise, our goal is to dismantle as many drug trafficking organizations on the Internet and on the street,” DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Donovan said.
On the Internet, online marketplaces for drugs and other contraband exist on the “dark web,” a portion of the Internet beyond the reach of traditional Internet browsers and accessible only through networks that mask users’ identities. The “Wall Street Market” and the “Empire Market” were global dark web marketplaces that required their users to trade digital currencies, primarily Bitcoin.
Between March 2019 and September 2019, Melgarejo and Gray promoted and sold illegal narcotics on Wall Street Market and Empire Market under the name “THEQUEENSHIVE.” Customers were instructed to pay for illegal narcotics with cryptocurrency and to contact Melgarejo and Gray via encrypted emails and messaging services. Melgarejo and Gray claimed to sell “the highest quality product at the best price on the market … our packaging is covert as Seal Team Six to ensure we are not intercepted.” Beginning in March 2019, Melgarejo and Gray unknowingly sold narcotics, including methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl, LSD, and MDMA, to undercover DEA agents on multiple occasions. Melgarejo and Gray used counterfeit address labels and shipping materials to disguise the narcotics and then shipped the narcotics through United States Postal Service mailboxes located at several gas stations in the Albuquerque area in a vain attempt to evade detection. The investigation further revealed that after receiving Bitcoin in exchange for the narcotics, Melgarejo and Gray converted the Bitcoin into cash and split the proceeds. Melgarejo and Gray were involved in over 90 transactions on the Wall Street Market and the Empire Market.
If convicted, Melgarejo and Gray each face life in prison.