Former US Military Interpreter Sentenced to 30 Years in Federal Prison for Selling Fentanyl, Accepting Crypto Payments

Alaa Mohammed Allawi, a former interpreter for the US military forces, has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for selling fentanyl, which resulted in the death of a US marine.

Allawi, who previously worked as an Iraqi US interpreter, will be serving his sentence in federal prison without the possibility of parole for selling fentanyl and accepting payments in cryptocurrency via the darknet.

Allawi pleaded guilty to the drug-related charges and admitted that he used the now-defunct darknet marketplace Alpha Bay to sell different types of controlled substances, including oxycodone mixed with fentanyl. Allawi acknowledged that he accepted payments in digital currencies. 

Allawi’s drug dealing led to the death of a US marine in 2017. The officer reportedly took one of his pills during a party while on duty at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. 

Special agent Will Glaspy stated:

“From his use of the dark web, to his clandestine manufacturing of counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl, to his drug sales targeting college students, Allawi operated with little concern for the people in our communities.”

According to Ciphertrace’s report on anti-money laundering (AML), nearly all drugs sold via the darknet are purchased with pseudonymous cryptocurrencies. The dark web provides an environment that is appealing to drug dealers as most of the transactions conducted are difficult to trace.

Professor Talis Putnins, co-author of a University of Technology Sydney report on cryptocurrency and controlled substances, stated:

“Cryptocurrencies have fundamentally transformed the way illegal drugs are bought and sold, shifting much of the activity from a cash-based, physical ‘on the street’ market to an online marketplace.”

He added:

“The online illegal drugs trade needed two fundamental things to take off. One is an anonymous communications platform, which was provided by the darknet and underpinned by TOR (an anonymous communications protocol). And the second important piece was an anonymous or private way of making digital payments that was difficult to trace by authorities. That is the role that cryptocurrencies have played. Thus, they are an integral part of the online drugs trade.”

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