Authorities in the United States have charged a Quebec man for allegedly funnelling fentanyl into that country using a network of secret websites called the darknet.
The charges against Arden McCann in connection with the disruption of an alleged international opioid-trafficking ring were announced this week by officials in Washington, D.C.
McCann, 32, of St-Bruno, Que., south of Montreal, has been in preventative custody in Canada since earlier this year. He was arrested by the RCMP in late February and faces extradition.
He is facing charges in Atlanta on four counts including conspiring to import drugs into the United States and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Authorities say at least one person in Georgia died in December 2016 from the synthetic opioid known as fentanyl, allegedly imported by McCann.
The darknet is a part of the internet hosted within an encrypted network and accessible only through specialized anonymity-providing tools, notably the Tor browser.
On Tuesday, a senior U.S. Department of Justice official announced 179 arrests worldwide allegedly tied to the network and described McCann as one of the Drug Enforcement Administration's most wanted targets.
"McCann allegedly imported fentanyl and fentanyl analogs from China to Canada and the United States," said Tim Shea, acting DEA administrator. "Multiple overdose deaths have been directly linked to his drugs."
United States authorities allege that at his peak, McCann was importing more than 10 kilograms of fentanyl and over 300,000 counterfeit Xanax pills monthly.
Law enforcement officials seized over $6.5 million in cash and virtual currency, in addition to 500 kilograms of drugs, the Justice Department said. It said pill presses — of which more than a dozen were seized during the operation — were used to manufacture counterfeit tablets.
McCann was known under several identities on the dark web according to the indictment, including Dr. Xanax and RCQueen, among other aliases.
More than 120 arrests were made in the U.S., two in Canada, 42 in Germany, eight in the Netherlands, four in the United Kingdom, three in Australia and one in Sweden. The Justice Department said its investigation was ongoing and investigators were still working to identify other individuals behind darknet accounts.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2020.
— with files from The Associated Press.