Washington County Sheriffs chip in to secure federal prison stay for dark web drug dealer

09 January 2024- U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow sentenced Joseph Farace, age 72, of Sparks, Maryland today to 19 months in federal prison, followed by two years of supervised release, for a money laundering conspiracy. On January 5, 2023, Judge Griggsby sentenced his son, Ryan Farace, age 38, of Reisterstown, Maryland, a previously convicted felon, to 54 months in federal prison for the same charge. 

The sentences were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge Jarod Forget of the Drug Enforcement Administration – Washington Division; Special Agent in Charge Kareem A. Carter of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; Chief Robert McCullough of the Baltimore County Police Department; Chief Gregory Der of the Howard County Police Department; Anne Arundel County Police Chief Amal E. Awad; Carroll County Sheriff James DeWees; Washington County Sheriff Brian K. Albert; and Chief Teresa Walter of the Havre de Grace Police Department.

According to their guilty pleas and other court documents, in November 2018, Ryan Farace was convicted in U.S. District Court in Maryland for a scheme to manufacture and distribute alprazolam tablets (sold under the brand name “Xanax”) in exchange for Bitcoin through sales on darknet marketplaces.  Cryptocurrency tracing techniques established that, in all, wallets associated with R. Farace, and/or his vendor name “XANAXMAN,” received over 9,138 Bitcoins from addresses associated with darknet marketplaces. 

Prior to his sentencing for the 2018 crimes, R. Farace met with representatives of the United States Attorney’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration, for the purpose of helping the government gain access to R. Farace’s drug proceeds, particularly cryptocurrency and cash, which had not yet been seized.  R. Farace repeatedly stated that he did not recall the location or means by which he could access any additional Bitcoins about which the government was not already aware.  At R. Farace’s sentencing for the 2018 crimes, he argued that he had been cooperative with the government’s efforts to obtain his assets.  Nonetheless, after R. Farace was sentenced, the government recovered additional drug proceeds in the form of Bitcoin.  Specifically, in early 2020, law enforcement recovered over 24 Bitcoin.

As detailed in his guilty plea, despite R. Farace’s claims to the government that he could not access any other Bitcoin proceeds related to his 2018 drug trafficking conviction, from October 2019 to April 2021, while incarcerated for his 2018 crimes, R. Farace conspired with his father, J. Farace, and others to launder additional proceeds of crimes through a series of financial transactions.  For example, in 2019, R. Farace sent approximately 71 Bitcoin from digital wallets he controlled to online exchanges and retailers.  Financial records from one such retailer indicated that R. Farace used some of the drug proceeds to benefit his father, including sending $3,341.65 worth of gift cards.  R. Farace used a contraband cell phone in prison to communicate with J. Farace about these purchases, using an encrypted email service. 

In August 2020, while he was incarcerated, R. Farace asked J. Farace to transfer more than 2,874 Bitcoin to a third party, so that the funds could be moved into a foreign bank account.  R. Farace provided J. Farace with the wallet address by typing it into the back cover of a prison library book and mailing it to J. Farace.

As detailed in their plea agreements, R. Farace (while incarcerated) and J. Farace used email and phone calls to discuss the transfer of bitcoin using coded language.  In September 2020, J. Farace completed the transfer of over 2,874 Bitcoin to the third party, all of which were proceeds of R. Farace’s 2018 drug crimes. On February 10, 2021, federal agents seized all of the 2,874.90419597 Bitcoin that J. Farace had transferred, the market value of which was between $65 million and $150 million at the time of seizure.  On May 11, 2021, the government seized 58.742155166 Bitcoin that was also proceeds of R. Farace’s drug trafficking.  Both R. Farace and J. Farace must forfeit all of the Bitcoin seized during the investigation.