Illegal drugs deals were made in the open using Craigslist and similar sites with the help of code names like “Roxy board shorts size 30” and “roofing tar” investigators revealed Friday.
San Diego County sheriff’s deputies explained the code system uncovered as part of a five-month investigation called Operation.com.
Officials say dealers would use the brand “Roxy” to list the painkiller Roxicodone for sale and “size 30” would signify 30 mg. “Roofing tar” was used to list heroin.
Nineteen people were arrested after deputies made undercover buys of prescription drugs, heroine, methamphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy. Officials say they also seized $25, in cash as a result of five search warrants served between November and April
Commander Mike Barletta credited the idea behind the operation to simple research by one deputy who used Google to search for current drug terminology.
The department found Urban Dictionary to be a good reference guide, the commander told NBC 7.
“This is the wave of the future, we believe, Internet sales. It’s cleaner, a little safer for them. They are advertising online their wares for sale rather than standing on a corner,” Barletta said.
“We can’t shut down the Internet so we’re going to have to devote resources to this kind of operation,” he said.
The suspects, ranging in age from 26 to 46, were students or unemployed, deputies told NBC 7.
The defendants now face charges including conspiracy, possession of controlled substances and possession of controlled substances with intent to sell, officials said.
Deputies said more arrests were expected.
21 prescription peddlers busted in Craigslist probe
The Craigslist ad offered Percocet pills for sale, but warned: No LE please. Meaning: No law enforcement.
Like that made a difference.
The year-old man accused of placing the ad was among 21 people arrested in an attempt by the New York Police Department to make an example out of some of the smallest of small-time drug dealers: students, young professionals and others who clean out the medicine cabinet and then are brazen enough — and foolish enough — to offer the pills for up to $20 a pop over the Internet.
Whether the drug deal occurs on the street corner or on the Internet, its a crime, Bridget Brennan, special narcotics prosecutor for New York City, said today in a statement announcing the arrests.
Undercover narcotics investigators answered the ads and ended up buying handfuls of powerful prescription painkillers and other pills for a few hundred dollars, typically in broad daylight and in public settings such as coffee shops, Penn Station or Washington Square Park.
Some of the sellers turned out to be run-of-the mill drug dealers also peddling cocaine and heroin, police said. But many were more mainstream: Among those arrested were a New York University graduate student, a financial adviser and a year-old woman who works as a freelance photographer.
The pills came from the sellers own prescriptions or were stolen from relatives, friends and co-workers, authorities said. Some of the dealers were out to make a quick buck — even though their backgrounds would suggest they didnt need the money.
The arrests come as law enforcement agencies around the country battle a surge in illegal sales of highly addictive painkillers like Percocet and Roxycodone and, increasingly, attention-deficit drugs like Adderall — transactions that now rival the cocaine and heroin trade both in volume and as a public health hazard.
Because the drugs have legal medical uses, they carry less of a stigma than illegal narcotics. After they were arrested, some of the sellers claimed they didnt know what they were doing was a crime. But investigators dont buy it.
Youd have to be living under a rock to not know its illegal, Brennan said.
Brennans office reached out to San Francisco-based Craigslist earlier this week to try to get its cooperation in finding ways to discourage the Internet marketing. A Craigslist spokeswoman had no comment today.
The undercover investigators began answering Craigslist ads late last year. By the time they were done, they had made 63 buys — about $19, in pills and $10, in cocaine.
One ad was placed by a self-described friendly NYU student. It offered pain and anxiety relief. Just in case there was any confusion, it signed off with perc roxy. And a smiley face.
A criminal complaint accused Anthony Vargas — the Manhattan man who politely asked police not to respond to his ad — of meeting the same undercover officer four times over the summer near Union Square to sell dozens of oxycodone pills. Vargas, 40, was sentenced to nine months in jail on yesterday after pleading guilty to criminal sale of a controlled substance, prosecutors said.
Despite the enforcement effort, the advertising continued unabated today.
One posting from someone in New York City read: Hello ladies and gentleman. If your in pain and need assistance look no further. Ive got 30 (mg) ways to help!! Not affiliated with any sort of law enforcement? If ALL of these pertain to you, email me with what your looking for (quantity) and we will work it out.
Craigslist advertises illegal drugs for sale, police say hard to track dealers
NAPA, Calif. - Growing up, he teen loved to surf, play guitar and hang out with his younger brother. He seemed like a well-adapted, happy suburban teenager.
But his mother didnt know then that her teen son had a dark secret until her husband found illegal drug paraphernalia in his bedroom. She asked her son where he was getting the drugs.
He told me he was getting (drugs) by answering ads placed on Craigslist, she said. "I started looking and sure enough they were all over the place.
Kruger said she found code words such as gun powder for a powerful type of heroin and an eight ball emoji to reference 3 ½ grams of cocaine on the online ads.
You could just email them They didn't ask for an age or anything. They don't care. And so he could just meet people right down the street before he even had a car. He was meeting people at 17 years old, his mother said.
Her son went to drug treatment at Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services in Petaluma and then moved into a sober living house. He got clean and stayed off drugs for almost a year.
"I got the best year I ever had with him because I kind of got a glimpse of the adult he was becoming," his mother said.
During the course of his treatment, he met a woman and the two later rented a Petaluma apartment together.
But one night when his mother called him on his cell phone she said the call went straight to voicemail.
And I just had this, I can feel it now, this just weird like sinking feeling, like a mother's intuition."
Paramedics in Petaluma were sent to her sons home shortly after 11 p.m that night in February. He had relapsed on heroin.
They tried to revive him. They did their best. He was pronounced dead 37 minutes later.
He was 19 years old.
"If we get these drugs off the internet that might save someone's life, his mother said.
And its not just Craigslist advertising drugs. There are videos on other social media sites on how to administer drugs. And authorities say Snapchat is often used to buy and sell drugs in a quick and anonymous way.
Jeffrey Walker knows all too much about how online sites are used in the U.S. drug trade.
"I first heard about Craigslist because I saw on the news that there were people selling drugs on Craigslist, said Walker. My immediate thought was wow that's a really dumb thing to do. Who would put their information out like that, not even encrypted with no sort of privacy or protection against law enforcement?
Walker later developed an addiction to opioids after experimenting with prescription pills in high school and college.
Once you get addicted you can't really stop. So, if your supply runs out, you're going to start getting real creative on ways to find your fix, he said in a recent interview with KTVU 2 Investigates.
Soon, Craigslist became a matter of convenience for Walker to get the pills when and where he needed them.
It's totally anonymous. You don't have to know anything about these people, they don't need to know anything about you. You respond to an ad online and you pick up whatever drug it is that you're looking for, Walker said. Craigslist did not respond to repeated attempts by KTVU to reach them.
Needing money to buy pills, he turned to dealing drugs on Craigslist himself.
Anytime I was selling something on Craigslist I tried to be as subtle as possible, to disguise words, to use slang, to give as little information as possible, he said. Obviously never give your name or location."
He was nervous about the transactions all the time and eventually got clean and sober about 3 ½ years ago. He graduated from college and began working as a writer. Hes published several stories about his battle with addiction.
But, while he is still sober, Walker knows the outcome of consuming drugs bought online could have ended in death, like it did for Baldini.
There's no quality control, Walker said. This is all black market so you could be buying aspirin, you could be buying something that's laced. You truly don't know and that's what makes it so dangerous."
KTVU spoke to an undercover detective with the Sonoma County Sheriffs Office about the online drug trade. He asked to remain anonymous because of the nature of his job.
He said local law enforcement can't proactively focus on online classifieds and social media accounts advertising drugs because they are often overloaded tracking child porn, human trafficking and other violent and major cybercrimes.
Its tough, the detective said. There's a lot of posts to go through every day. We're also a very busy unit.
Although some Bay Area police departments once dedicated time to policing Craigslist, priorities have changed and few detectives spend their days solely looking for drug sales ads on social media sites.
But when a tip comes in, they investigate.
"It's always trying to stay a step ahead of the dealers, the detective said. Sometimes they're a step ahead of us but we're trying to gain some traction on them."
While plenty of people continue to buy drugs online without serious consequences, others get clean and sober after years of drug abuse.
In fact, at Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services in Petaluma, founder Scott Sowle said his facility is full almost all the time. There is room for 16 boys but the facility is soon expanding to have beds for 26 boys between the ages of 12 and
We're seeing it more and more this year, Sowle said.
He said hes heard the stories from the boys about where they got their drugs.
"At home, a lot of these boys--behind closed doors in their bedrooms--are either on the dark web or even now they're going on Craigslist, Sowle said.
If you or someone you know is battling addiction, here are some resources to find help:
- Drugabuse.com is a resource for addicts as well as family and friends looking to help someone battling addiction. The resource center can be found online at www.drugabuse.com or by calling
- American Addiction Centers is a resource to find a drug rebab or detox center. They can be found online at www.americanaddictioncenters.org or by calling
- Narcotics Anonymous will help those using drugs find a step meeting. They can be found online at www.na.org. Their phone number is
Craigslist Now Hotspot for Fentanyl Sales in Los Angeles
In Los Angeles, Craigslist has emerged in the last few months as a major new marketplace for illicit fentanyl.
The online classified ad service has for several years been a virtual street corner, a place where drugs are sold under lightly veiled pseudonyms: black-tar heroin (“roofing tar”), crystal methamphetamine (“clear sealant”), or generic and most likely counterfeit oxycodone 30 mg pills (“M30”).
But fentanyl, the deadliest of them all, is a new arrival, apparently within the last year, and for the moment appears to be for sale on Craigslist only on its Los Angeles site.
*This article was originally published by Dreamland. It was edited for clarity and reprinted with permission, but does not necessarily reflect the views of InSight Crime. See the original version here.
A search of Los Angeles Craigslist revealed numerous listings for fentanyl code words “China White Doll” or “White China Plates” or “China White Dishes.” A few were even more brazen: China “fenty fent” White read one. The ads usually display no photographs or images other than maps of the areas the vendors purport to serve.
The search did turn up numerous ads of what appeared to be vendors of actual dinnerware; these included photographs of plates, bowls, teacups.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Fentanyl
But other ads were like this one, from a West Hollywood vendor, who advertised under the headline, “White China Christmas Edition – $”:
“Were you left out in the cold? Were you served fake stuff? Are you sick? Let me help you ease your pain. …Tired of the petty games or fake product being sold at a cheaper price, or waiting hours upon hours for the dude.”
Offering “Winter White Fine China,” a Sherman Oaks vendor advertised professionalism, reliability, fast service and “product testing available. No pressure to purchase.”
“Yes honest vendors still exist!” the vendor wrote. “Be cautious, stay alert & don’t get fooled! If you’re not absolutely satisfied we go our separate ways!”
“Mention #painpaingoaway for the sale prices,” read one Wilshire vendor’s ad.
Another in Gardena offered a “brand name substitute of roofing tar”: “$20/strip if you’re buying one, price breaks if you need more. White china plates also available as well, $/half set $/full set. TEXT ONLY PLEASE. When you contact me, please include your name, what you’re looking to purchase and if you’re mobile or if you need delivery (If delivery, include your location as well)”
Many listed the keywords that buyers might be using to find vendors: “Addys, blues, China, perks, xanax, white, coke, fent, Subs, Percocet, oxycodone, Norco, Suboxone, adderall, fentanyl, Dilaudid, tramadol.”
An email was sent to Craigslist media department requesting an interview on how and why this occurred and is allowed, but no response was received.
“We’ve observed a high frequency of involvement of Craigslist in the dissemination of [illegal] drugs,” said Ben Barron, an assistant U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles who is prosecuting the region’s first Craigslist-related fentanyl death case. The case involves Andrew Madi, an alleged Craigslist heroin and fentanyl dealer who is accused of selling fentanyl that killed a buyer last summer.
Madi, 25, was indicted earlier this month on charges that he sold fentanyl to a buyer, recently out of drug treatment, who responded to his Craigslist Los Angeles ad. Barron said Madi allegedly advertised “roofing tar” (black-tar heroin).
Then, via texts, Madi allegedly told the buyer he was out of roofing tar, but had “China White,” offering a money-back guarantee if the buyer was unsatisfied with his product.
When Madi texted him later asking his opinion of what he’d been sold, the buyer replied that “this white does the job for sure.” On July 6, the buyer was found dead in his apartment, with a baggie containing fentanyl nearby. Officials allege that Madi had been advertising fentanyl, heroin and Xanax on Craigslist since March.
“We have very good reason to believe that this was just one small slice of the trafficking [Madi] was doing using many email addresses and burner cellphones” on Craigslist, Barron said.
SEE ALSO: Mexico's Role in the Deadly Rise of Fentanyl
A cursory check of Craigslists in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, Seattle, Minneapolis, Charlotte, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Las Vegas turned up only a small number of similar listings, or none at all. New York’s listing offered a handful of such ads. San Diego and Orange County Craigslists had several, though far fewer, suspect listings than did Los Angeles.
Barron suggested the reason may be related to Los Angeles’s position as a major drug hub, both from Mexico and from China, where much of the fentanyl powder is made by hundreds of chemical companies.
“Even if we don’t have the same degree of opiate overdose problem as you’d see in the Rust Belt, the drugs are flowing through here,” he said.
One long-time heroin addict, who requested anonymity, suggested the Craigslist fentanyl marketplace was due to the bust of an extensive, well-used San Fernando Valley-based heroin delivery services — known by addicts and police as Manny’s Delivery Service — in December, Addicts and mid-level dealers from as far away as Anaheim and Bakersfield were said to patronize the service.
The service reputedly did not sell fentanyl, but the addict said many people have switched to fentanyl after Manny’s cheap, potent heroin, and the organization’s convenient delivery, were no longer available — though other services have stepped into the vacuum Manny’s left behind.
The Craigslist ads for fentanyl, he noted, began popping up not long after Manny’s was taken down by local and federal authorities. The cases against 16 defendants in the Manny’s indictment are still winding their way through court.
Fentanyl might have arrived anyway, said the user, given its advantages as an underworld drug. “But I can tell you without a doubt what has happened to the L.A. dope scene since they were busted: Fentanyl is everywhere. There’s a lot of people who are choosing to use fentanyl,” he said in a telephone interview.
Fentanyl is a legitimate medical painkiller – a synthetic opioid – used often in cardiac surgery and to control chronic pain. But it is up to a hundred times more potent than morphine and highly addictive, and thus has become a street drug as America’s epidemic of opiate addiction has spread in recent years.
The epidemic began with doctors overprescribing narcotic pain pills. Many patients grew addicted to those pills and some of them switched to heroin, which is mostly from Mexico or Colombia.
Recently, though, traffickers have turned to fentanyl as a heroin substitute because it is cheaper to manufacture and, due to its potency, easier to smuggle in small quantities.
Public health and law enforcement officials attribute the record overdose-death rates of the last few years to widespread addiction to opiates across the United States and the arrival of illicit fentanyl – often in powder form – on the streets in response.
Fentanyl has become widely offered for sale on the Dark Web — that part of the Internet that requires a special connection and expertise to connect to. But Los Angeles appears to be the first place where the drug is offered on the open web.
The emergence of the Craigslist fentanyl marketplace is alarming, Barron said, because at least “on the Dark Web, there’s a degree of sophistication involved in that, whereas anybody can use Craigslist.”
*This article was originally published by Dreamland. It was edited for clarity and reprinted with permission, but does not necessarily reflect the views of InSight Crime. See the original version here.
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On craigslist norco buying
Chris Bell couldnt stand the intense pain he felt after a failed hip surgery nearly seven years ago, he said, and he soon found himself addicted to prescription painkillers.
After his doctor cut him off, the year-old Venice filmmaker bought the pills from friends whod had sports injuries, but before long, he realized he could easily find controlled narcotics such as Vicodin and Oxycodone on the classifed-ad website Craigslist.
I would call a number or text a number (from an ad), meet some guy in an alley and get drugs, Bell, who is currently making a film about prescription drug abuse, said Monday by phone. I was just desperate. I must have done maybe 10 or 12 transactions like that before I stopped and thought, What am I doing?
In the course of doing research for the movie, Bell brought the matter to the attention of Sen. Ted W. Lieu, D-Redondo Beach, who along with Nevada State Sen. Richard Tick Segerblom, has recently called on Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster to put an end to ads offering prescription drugs for sale or trade in their states. Lieu is now scheduled to meet with at least one Craigslist official on Oct. 30 to discuss the matter.
Its very clear that Craigslist is facilitating illegal drug transactions. They are connecting buyers and sellers of narcotics without prescriptions, Lieu said. I would like for Craigslist to commit to taking down their illegal drug listings the same way they took down prostitution listings a few years ago.
Many of the drugs advertised on the site are potent, addictive and can lead to overdoses, and there have been cases of children buying prescription drugs or selling pills they found in their parents medicine cabinet, Lieu said.
A quick search on the website Monday found in pharmaceutical jargon indicating the strength of the drug an ad in Rubidoux offering Vicodin 5/ 16 pills for $30 and stating: No law enforcement. This is for people who have a prescription and are running low until their next refill. Another in Northridge offered Vicodin and Norco 10/ for $7.
An ad placed Monday afternoon on Craigslist titled Need Help with your pain? $1 offered Roxys, Roxies, Oxys, Oxy, Dilaudids, Opana, Morphine, OxyContin, OxyCodone, HydroCodone, Percocet, Darvocet, Perciden, Fentanyl in Southern California, under the guise that it was a study.
We have high quality pharmaceuticals for help with your daily pain, it stated. This study is for people that need help getting pain medication great introductory pricing.
Lieu said he has asked the states Office of Legislative Counsel to examine whether what Craigslist is doing is legal and, if it is, what kind of legislation can be introduced to shut it down.
The website did not respond to requests for comment Monday. However, a company executive said in a September email to Lieu that they share his concerns.
Craigslist prohibits the sale of prescription drugs and other controlled substances on its site and has implemented several measures intended to minimize such ads on Craigslist, William C. Powell, director of customer service and law-enforcement relations wrote. We are interested in making further progress in this important area, and would be happy to meet with you.
Los Angeles County Sheriffs Sgt. Steve Opferman supervises the Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force (HALT), a multi-agency entity created in that tackles crimes that affect the publics health, including those involving prescription drugs.
The task force has noticed a steady flow of ads popping up daily on Craigslist for various prescription drugs, he said. They include not only the highly addictive and dangerous opiates such as Vicodin and OxyContin but erectile-dysfunction medications such as Viagra.
The majority of substances the task force finds on Craigslist, he added, are either counterfeit, which means they may not have the correct ingredients, or they are stolen and thus could have been mishandled or expired.
While the task force has responded to specific complaints about Craigslist ads and will set up occasional undercover buy busts, Opferman noted it mainly goes after large black-market distributors and those involved in Medi-Cal and Medicare fraud.
Craigslist is like small, petty dealers. We dont have a lot of resources to go after them, he said. I think the senator is going in the right direction with maybe trying to regulate the site itself.
Paul Brocky, cofounder of the classified web listing theroadcode.com, said his site has a filtering functionality that uses certain keywords to prevent such ads from appearing on the site, a flagging system wherein the pubic can alert the company if the ads do make it onto the site and staff members who individually review each ad that gets posted.
He said theyve now noticed people trying to place ads selling various chemical components so someone can assemble the drugs themselves.
We prohibit that also, he said. Theyre not doing it for a good science project theyre looking to sell the ingredients so someone can get high.
Marv Shepherd, director of the Center for Pharmacoeconomic Studies at the University of Texas College of Pharmacy, said drugs often end up on Craigslist in one of two ways. First, consumers sell drugs they no longer need to others who resell them on the Internet. In the second scenario, he said, resellers take advantage of a system put in place for drugs that have expired or will soon reach their expiration date. Pharmacies will generally try to return those drugs to the manufacturer, but its often through a third party, and Shepherd said it is possible that some charged with this task may instead divert them back onto the market.
I think Craigslist has to pull their head of the sand, Shepherd said. They cant be a broker for diverted drugs, and thats basically what they are.
Staff Writers Larry Altman and Brian Sumers contributed to this report.
'Operation Dot Com': Sting Reveals Drug Dealers Openly Advertising on Craigslist
Oct. 13, -- An undercover sting by the New York Police Department and the city's Special Narcotics Prosecutor has revealed a booming business for drug dealers who now openly advertise on Craigslist.
Police arrested 21 in the New York area after undercover officers made 63 separate drug purchases, responding to brazen ads for "bundles of dope" and open advertisements for Adderall, Xanax, or Oxycontin.
One ad offered, "Friendly Nyu student who can offer pain relief and anxiety relief. easy, non-sketchy, straightforward meeting."
"That's really what stands out in this case: the openness, the blatant approach," NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told ABC News. "The wording was such that you knew it was illegal, we knew the drugs we were talking about."
Kelly said he has seen the number of prescriptions for Adderall and Oxycontin both skyrocket, with each going up by percent over a four-year period.
"Clearly there has been a major increase in the use of prescription drugs and clearly the use of illegal prescription drugs," he said.
Kelley is helping to lead the national fight against the illegal drug trade online. Last year, the NYPD made a separate similar bust that netted 40 arrests.
Yet ABC News found the business is still booming in cities across America.
A quick search of Craigslist revealed ads selling Adderall in Los Angeles for $8 a pill.
In Philadelphia, would-be buyers go online, too. ABC News found one advertising "study aid needed" saying they were "Willing to pay well" and asking a seller to email them.
In Brooklyn, N.Y., a seller is still advertising a "gReaT DeaL" for a bundle of Adderall prescription drugs to be used as "study Aid$." They say you can "GRAB all 20" prescription drugs for $
Aaron Wallenstein, the attorney for Rosanna Gorgy, a Brooklyn resident ensnared in the sting, declared the innocence of the dental assistant.
"She maintains her innocence," Wallenstein wrote. "She did not place any advertisements on Craigslist, nor did she believe she was committing any crime, but was unfortunately duped by a friend."
Prosecutors allege she sold drugs to undercover officers on three occasions.
Others arrested included a financial advisor, a veteran photographer, and a graduate student at New York University.
'Study Aids' Trade
Yasmin Malhotra, 25, is an international affairs graduate student at NYU who has pleaded not guilty.
The illegal trade of "study aids" has exploded on college campuses across the nation. When ABC News visited NYU today, students were not surprised to hear about how brazen the dealers had become.
"I think it is pretty easy to get if you want to," said NYU Freshman Alex Martin, 18, who is in a pre-med program. Martin said he has never personally taken a stimulant, but told ABC News he would know where to go if he wanted to find some.
"Yeah, yeah I would," he said. "It's not uncommon at all."
Ironically, some of those still advertising the drugs openly on Craigslist after the recent bust were politely requesting that any responders not include law enforcement.
Kelly said part of the problem is the exploding number of prescriptions that are not well tracked, allowing for some doctors to flood the market with the drugs.
He says within two years, the state of New York will no longer allow doctors to issue prescriptions on paper.
Instead, he says, the state is developing an electronic database where physicians will enter their prescriptions. Law enforcement will be able to use the database to track those who prescribe an unusual number of anxiety or pain medication pills.
Kelly said he expects other states to follow suit.
ABC News reached out to Craigslist for comment on this story and has not received a reply.
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Then I felt some kind of movement near my hanging head. I opened my eyes and saw that a "sitting" one who was leaving the office was approaching me. He was without pants and panties in his hand, he held his tense penis, his lips curled with a grin. Approaching me, he stroked my hair with his free hand, then, grabbing.