Marine’s death tied to Texas man who sold 895,000 pills on dark web, US attorney says

An Iraqi immigrant has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for using the dark web and cryptocurrency to run a drug ring from Texas, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Alaa Mohammed Allawi, 30, was arrested in 2017 after using the now-defunct dark net website AlphaBay to distribute approximately 895,000 pills — fentanyl-laced Oxycodone, methamphetamine-laced Adderall and Xanax — from his “stash house” in Fort Bend County, just southwest of Houston, the release said.

Allawi accepted seven cryptocurrencies for payment, including Bitcoin and Ethereum, the release says. In addition to his prison sentence, the judge also ordered Allawi to pay $14.32 million based off his profits.

Officials say Corporal Mark M. Mambulao, 20, a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, died after he took a fentanyl-laced pill purchased from Allawi on the dark web by two colleagues. On Tuesday, Marine Corporal Marcos Jamie Villegas was “kicked out” of the Marine Corps, and both he and Marine Sergeant Anthony P. Tognietti have been arraigned for distribution as well as aiding and abetting.

“Today’s sentencing of Allawi is an indication of the sophistication and callousness with which Allawi conducted his illegal drug activities,” DEA Special Agent Will Glaspy said in the release. “From his use of the dark web, to his clandestine manufacturing of counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl, to his drug sales targeting college students, Allawi operated with little concern for the people in our communities.”

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Alaa Mohammed Allawi, 30, was arrested in 2017 after using the now-defunct dark net website AlphaBay to distribute approximately 895,000 pills from Texas, officials say. Screengrab: KSAT

Investigations into Allawi began in 2015 when San Antonio and University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) police departments noticed a spike in prescription pills found on the UTSA campus and in student housing, the release said. Allawi was ultimately identified as the supplier and manufacturer.

In May 2017, authorities raided Allawi’s stash house, finding just over a pound each of crystal methamphetamine, powder cocaine and fentanyl powder, as well as more than 50 pounds of various pills, four guns and a number of “industrial size pill presses” which he bought on the dark web, the release says.

Allawi, who immigrated to the U.S. in 2012, pleaded guilty in June to “one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute fentanyl resulting in death and serious bodily injury and one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.”

The federal indictment included seven other people, the release says. Three have been sentenced, including Allawi, and five await sentencing after pleading guilty.

Officials say they hope Allawi’s sentencing sends a message.

“Opioids such as fentanyl are a public health crisis that have taken countless lives and destroyed many more,” U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez said in the news release. “Postal Inspectors have always made it their mission to protect the public and the U.S. Postal Service from drug traffickers who try to use the mail to distribute their poison. The sentence handed down today should serve as a reminder to other perpetrators engaged in this type of criminal activity that we will continue to work closely with all of our law enforcement partners to ensure they are brought to justice.”

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Dawson covers goings-on across the central region, from breaking to bizarre. She is an MSt candidate at the University of Cambridge and lives in Kansas City.