Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Columbia
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, June 23, 2023
Defendant Facilitated $18 Million in Illegal Drug Transactions Using Cryptocurrency
WASHINGTON –Milomir Desnica has been extradited from Austria to face charges of running a criminal darknet narcotics marketplace. The charges, unsealed on May 25, 2023, were announced today by United States Attorney Matthew M. Graves and Acting Special Agent in Charge Sarah Linden, of the FBI Washington Field Office’s Criminal and Cyber Division.
Desnica, 33, of Smederevska Palanka, Serbia, was indicted on July 26, 2022, by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on charges of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. The indictment also includes a forfeiture allegation seeking all proceeds of the alleged crimes. Desnica will be arraigned on the charges on a date to be determined by the Court.
According to the indictment, in late 2019, Desnica launched and operated a darknet marketplace, known as Monopoly Market (“Monopoly”), for the purpose of selling illicit narcotics including opioids, stimulants, psychedelics, and prescription medications, among other drugs. Vendors had to complete an application to sell their products on Monopoly, which included providing descriptions of the drugs they wanted to sell, photographic proof of their inventory, and an agreement to pay a commission for sales completed through Monopoly. As the operator of Monopoly, Desnica reviewed and approved these applications and was aware that vendors were selling narcotics on his website.
In 2021, law enforcement within the United States placed and received numerous orders for narcotics on Monopoly from various vendors. Authorities were able to order more than 100 grams of methamphetamine on Monopoly.
In December 2021, in coordination with foreign law enforcement partners in Germany and Finland, the computer server hosting Monopoly was seized and taken offline. Through analysis of the seized server, law enforcement identified records of the narcotics sales facilitated by Monopoly, financial records documenting cryptocurrency payments on Monopoly, an online forum associated with Monopoly, communications from the Monopoly operator to vendors, commission payment invoices and more. Through extensive analysis of these records, Desnica was identified as the operator of Monopoly.
It is further alleged that between at least April 2020 and July 2022, Desnica used at least two cryptocurrency exchange services to exchange his illicit cryptocurrency, moving between blockchains used to document all cryptocurrency transactions to “clean” his illicit proceeds. Desnica then sold the illicit cryptocurrency to Serbia-based peer-to-peer traders in exchange for fiat currency — all in an effort to launder the proceeds of the illicit narcotics sales.
In November 2022, in coordination with the Austrian Fugitive Active Search Team (FAST) and the Public Prosecutors Office Vienna, Desnica was located and arrested in Austria. Law enforcement conducted a search of his residence and vehicle, seizing electronics and cash.
The charge of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine carries a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison. The charge of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison. The charges also carry potential financial penalties. The maximum statutory sentence for federal offenses is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. The sentencing will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
This case is being investigated by the FBI Washington Field Office’s Hi-Tech Opioid Task Force and Germany’s Zentrale Kriminalinspektion (ZKI) Oldenburg Cybercrime Unit. The Hi-Tech Opioid Task Force is composed of FBI agents, analysts, and task force partners, including special agents and officers of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and detectives from local assisting police agencies. The task force is charged with identifying and investigating the most egregious darknet marketplaces and the vendors operating on the marketplaces who are engaged in the illegal acquisition and distribution of controlled substances, including fentanyl, methamphetamine, and other opioids.
Valuable assistance was provided by the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs; Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation; Europol; Germany’s Bundeskriminalamt; Austria’s Bundeskriminalamt Cybercrime Competency Center, FAST team, and Public Prosecutors Office Vienna; and the Republic of Serbia High-Tech Crimes Prosecutor. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andy Wang and Nihar Mohanty of the Violence Reduction and Trafficking Offenses (VRTO) Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.
USAO - District of Columbia
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