According to Report, Long Island is Likely Home to Many Digital Drug Buyers & Sellers and These Sales Have Doubled in Last Year– Schumer Calls on Feds to Crack Down on This Illegal Practice, Which Makes Illicit Drug Sales of Heroin, Cocaine, Steroids & More, Easy to Complete & Very Difficult to Track Schumer Vows to Push for Increased Funding for DOJ/DEA/FBI To Better Target Cyber Drug Deals; Even Though Practice is Illegal, Schumer Said Feds Clearly Need More Resources To Fight Cyber Drug Deale

In response to a troubling new investigation into the rapidly growing online marketplace for illicit drug sales that is infiltrating Long Island and New York City, Schumer today called for the Department of Justice to do a full review of how it is combating these online drug bazaars and whether this work should be better prioritized. Schumer also vowed to fight for increased funding in the FY16 Appropriations process aimed at fighting cyber drug dealers, so that the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have additional resources to adequately combat this development in cybercrime. According to an investigation by Newsday, both the number of encrypted “dark web” websites that sell illegal drugs, and the number of drug listings of heroin, cocaine and meth on those sites have doubled since 2013. Schumer will say that although sales are already illegal, clearly federal law enforcement officials need more resources targeted at the problem in order to investigate and target these sales, which have only increased since the original site, Silk Road, was shut down. Schumer acknowledged that targeting these sales on the “dark web” is complicated due to complex encryption software that is used to prevent law enforcement from being able to see who a user is, and where they are accessing these drug marketplaces from.

In 2011, Schumer called on the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Justice to launch an immediate crackdown on the underground website “Silk Road” that allows users to buy and sell illegal drugs and have them delivered directly to buyers’ homes. The website, which was only accessible through a secret network that hides users’ identities, allowed users to purchase illegal drugs easily and conveniently from other dealers and users throughout the country and around the world. Drugs ranging from heroin to ecstasy, marijuana, and cocaine can be found on the site. In 2013, the DOJ heeded Schumer’s call and shutdown the website, arresting the alleged Silk Road creator as well as multiple administrators.  Unfortunately, Schumer said, there has been a significant number of copy-cat websites that also sell drugs illegally, which can be more difficult to target than one centralized marketplace. Schumer explained that, with the online drug market continuing to thrive, it’s clear that more resources are needed to stop copy cat websites from reaching Long Islanders.

“With illegal online drug sales on the rise, we need our federal law enforcement officials to do a top to bottom investigation of how these online drug marketplaces continue to thrive, and whether we must better prioritize combating these sales,” said Senator Schumer. “These websites, by allowing users to rate the delivery services of sellers and by offering any drugs imaginable under the sun, are nothing less than an all-you-can order buffet of contraband that need to be investigated and targeted with more intensity. I look forward to a Department of Justice review of their protocols, and will fight to increase their funding for this purpose, so that these officials do not have one hand tied behind their back in the evolving world of these online drug bazaars.”   

“Long Island continues to struggle with an historic drug crisis and just as local police are aggressively pursuing drug dealers in Nassau and Suffolk, we need to give federal law enforcement personnel the tools they need to  shut down these vast electronic networks that are pumping poisons into the bodies of our young people and souls of our communities,” said Dr. Jeffrey L. Reynolds, the Chief Executive Officer of the Family & Children's Association

Long Island is home to rampant drug abuse. According to Newsday, in 2013, heroin killed 144 people on Long Island. In 2012, 110 people died from a heroin overdose; 83 of those people were in Suffolk County and 27 people in Nassau County. The number of heroin-related arrests in Suffolk County rose from 1,051 in 2011 to 1,266 in 2012 and in Nassau County that number jumped from 228 in 2011 to 427 in 2012.Additionally, according to Newsday, in 2012, there were 27 cases of prescription painkiller overdoses resulting in death; 20 in Suffolk County and 7 in Nassau County.

According to several media reports, online marketplaces for illegal drugs have more than doubled over the past year. These sites, on the “dark web,” sell illegal drugs like cocaine, and heroin, as well as unauthorized prescription drugs like steroids and opiates. In fact, according to Newsday, the number of illegal drugs for sale on the top 10 largest online sites has risen to over 40,000. In 2013, that number was less than 20,000.

Schumer said that as technology and cyber crime regarding illegal drug sales grows and develop, it is clear that the federal Department of Justice, FBI and DEA must review their procedures in handling these crimes, and place a greater priority on cracking down on these websites. Schumer said that given the complicated nature of detecting and shutting down dozens of online drug marketplaces, and the potentially disastrous impact that their growth has on  regions like Long Island, said that he will fight for additional funding in the FY2016 Appropriations process for DOJ to specifically target drug-related cybercrime. Schumer said this could have a concrete impact on this crime-fighting, including the hiring of additional expert FBI computer technicians, whose main job is to break through these encrypted drug websites and track their origin, buyers and sellers. Currently, there are not enough people to target these websites. Schumer also said an increase in the DOJ’s general fund could allow the purchase of new computers and software to keep up with the fast-changing technology.

Schumer highlighted that these illegal drug marketplaces uses layers of secrecy at all levels of the site to avoid detection from authorities: from limiting access to certain users, to hiding the identities of the buyers and sellers, to disguising shipments in the mail, and even using a form of untraceable currency to disguise payments. To access the sites users need to be members of the anonymizing network “TOR”. Once users are inside, their identities are concealed so that neither the buyer nor sellers are aware of the identities of the person they are conducting the transaction with. To mask the delivery of the drugs, users are instructed to disguise shipments and vacuum seal drugs that could otherwise be detected through smell. To purchase the drugs, users have to use an untraceable online currency called “Bitcoin,” that is created by networks of peer-to-peer users. 

Visitors to these websites can purchase an array of illegal drugs including cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamines and prescription narcotics, in various quantities. Users post the product and the quantity they are selling and buyers can then do comparison shopping. In addition to drugs, visitors to the site can purchase illegal firearms. The websites even allows user to rate the level of service they receive from drug dealers.

A copy of Schumer’s letter appears below:

The Honorable Eric Holder

Attorney General

United States Department of Justice

905 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530

Dear Attorney General Holder,

Under your leadership, the Department of Justice has made significant progress to prevent the abuse of dangerous and illegal substances.  However, I write today to ask for your continued assistance in the fight against these drugs in light of recent events. Over the last several years, we have seen a treacherous and rapidly growing avenue develop for criminals to carry out illicit activities. ?‎

Though the internet has become essential to many Americans day-to-day lives, it has also helped to facilitate an illegal market for dangerous narcotics including prescription drugs, cocaine, and even heroin. The “dark web” has assisted in shielding these criminals from law enforcement.  In 2011, I asked that the DOJ work diligently to shut down “Silk Road,” an online marketplace for drugs, guns, and other illegal activity.  With your help, the Silk Road was shut down by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2013, and I am pleased that DOJ is currently prosecuting its operator and holding him accountable. ‎Regrettably, however, new sites have recently sprung up in Silk Road's place.  

According to an investigation by Newsday, both the number of encrypted “dark web” websites that sell illegal drugs, and the number of drug listings of heroin, cocaine and meth on those sites have doubled to over 40,000 since 2013‎. Federal law enforcement must remain vigilant in your efforts to combat this growth, and that is why I ask that you conduct a comprehensive review of federal efforts to address the expansion of narcotics trafficking on the internet. The continued abuse of these drugs is detrimental to our development as a society, and I will continue to fight to ensure that you have adequate resources to conduct this important work.

Again, thank you for your continued efforts to protect and defend our country, and I commend your extensive public service. I look forward to working with you and the Department of Justice to stem the growth of this dangerous and unregulated marketplace, and I eagerly await your response.


Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator


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