Darknet 'BenzoBoys' gets prison selling millions counterfeit Xanax

A Missouri man – online username ‘BenzoBoys’ – was sentenced to prison for peddling millions of fake Xanax pills on the dark web in what the FBI calls a “prolific” drug operation.

Twenty-seven-year-old Brandon Adams was sentenced to 24 months in prison by a federal judge this week for running the counterfeit drug operation out of a secluded lake house in Sullivan, Missouri.

As part of the sentence, Adams will be forced to forfeit nearly $1 million – presumably made selling the fake Xanax pills –and pay an additional $10,000 fine.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) says Adams, whose drug operation took place from about October 2019 through May 2021, had confessed to selling millions of counterfeit and/or misbranded pills on the Darknet under the alias “BenzoBoys.”

“Brandon Adams was one of the most prolific manufacturers and distributors of counterfeit Xanax pills in the United States,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Chris Crocker of the FBI St. Louis Division.

“Counterfeit pills often contain unknown substances and pose a huge risk to consumer health because they evade regulatory oversight,” Crocker said.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), also involved in the case, said that Adams primarily sold counterfeit Xanax – a well-known anti-anxiety drug and a controlled substance only available in the US with a prescription.

Adams would receive the alternative substances used to make the counterfeit pills via US mail from sources in China.

Xanax pills
Xanax packaging and generic alprazolam pills. Image by Constantin Iosif | Ray Geiger | Shutterstock

The 'benzoboys' operation

According to court documents, Adams would create the fake pills (including Adderall as well) to be the same color, shape and size of the real pharmaceutical grade Xanax.

Using identical stamps as the manufacturer, Adams would imprint the stamps on the fake pills using a pill press machine, said to be capable of producing 16,200 pills per hour.

The phony pills, which were manufactured at the lake house, were said to be indistinguishable from the real thing and extensively advertised on the dark web.

Buyers would place orders using the encrypted messaging service Wickr Me, pay Adams in cryptocurrency, and then the drugs would be mailed or dead dropped.

Adams sold millions of pills, including hundreds of thousands to customers who would then re-sell the pills, the DoJ said.

After an undercover buy, investigators searched the property last May, finding tens of thousands of misbranded pills and bags labeled alprazolam (the generic name for Xanax) and clonazolam, a similar but high-potency designer anti-anxiety drug also from the benzodiazepine family, among other paraphernalia.

Additionally, agents found about $630,000 in cash, two rifles, and seized about $330,000 in Bitcoin.

Adams pled guilty in September to three felony counts: conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance via the internet, conspiracy to sell misbranded/counterfeit drugs, and selling counterfeit drugs, the DoJ said.

Adams will get three years of supervised release after serving the two year prison sentence. Two other defendants were also arrested in the bust, including Adams' girlfriend. A fourth co-conspirator died in a drug overdose previously.

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