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Darknet Vendor Admits Fentanyl Distribution Resulting in Death

In early 2017, a Federal Grand Jury in South Carolina returned an indictment that accused Robert Bryan Mansfield, a 60-year-old Charleston man, of conspiracy possession with intent to distribute and conspiracy to distribute. According to court documents recently made public, authorities caught Mansfield during a Department of Homeland Security investigation into international drug trafficking. The arrest later involved officers from several law enforcement agencies, including local Charleston and Dorchester sheriff’s offices. In January 2017, Mansfield pleaded guilty to fentanyl distribution that resulted in a death.

According to the court documents, Mansfield imported almost seven pounds of fentanyl. Much of the information revealed by Homeland Security Investigations agents came from statements made by Mansfield after his arrest. Federal investigators said that the suspect, after being arrested, told authorities how he managed his drug trafficking operation. Agents in a U.S. District Court in Charleston relayed this information during Mansfield’s first court appearance.

He told agents that he used the darknet to contact large-scale fentanyl dealers in China, the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain. The fentanyl came from China, for the most part. Unknown substances came from the three remaining countries. He paid his so-called “partners” through PayPal or Bitcoin. In turn, they shipped him fentanyl and other substances through international air mail. According to the affidavit read by agents in the courtroom, Mansfield handled his end of the fentanyl trafficking operation similarly.

Customers found him on darknet markets other hidden service platforms. From the center of operations, his apartment, Mansfield broke down the large packages of drugs. Customers purchased fentanyl in smaller quantities. They paid him with Bitcoin, the agents explained. He then shipped the customer the requested drug through the United States Postal Service.

Both incoming and outgoing mail led to the Charleston man’s demise. First, on February 2, agents at John F. Kennedy International Airport’s airmail facility spotted a suspicious package. They found a shipping bag that contained a bobble wrapped plastic bag. Inside the plastic bag, the agents said, they found an aluminum bag. And inside the aluminum bag, they found another plastic bag that contained more than two pounds of fentanyl.

After the package seizure, law enforcement singled Mansfield out as a suspect. Local police forces watched him until officers spotted Mansfield drop packages off at a post office in South Carolina. Agents intercepted the mail and discovered that the packages contained various drugs. They arrested Mansfield and searched his house. Inside, officers found 85.5 grams of fentanyl, scales, packages, and other drug trafficking equipment. Hazmat teams evacuated nearby homes.

Later, during the investigation that followed Mansfield’s arrest, federal investigators connected the fentanyl sold by Mansfield to an overdose in the United States. They also searched storage units and other properties connected to the man. In January, 2018, Mansfield pleaded guilty to distribution of fentanyl resulting in a death. District Judge David C. Norton accepted the charge of plea. The judge will impose a sentence at a later date, but the charge requires a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison.

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