Former Californian computer scientist arrested in dark web case

Sacramento man convicted in 2018 of illegal use of California Department of Technology Computers while working there was arrested and charged in a new case of conspiracy to drug trafficking, money laundering and trafficking in counterfeit goods.

Jonathan Patrick Turrentine, 39, was jailed at the Sacramento County Main Jail on Wednesday.

Court documents indicate that Turrentine used the nickname Caliplugmike on the dark web Empire Marketplace to offer “various amounts of LSD, cocaine, Xanax pills, Adderall pills, psilocybin mushroom, ecstasy and herbal products. of marijuana in various forms including edibles, vape pens / cartridges, and marijuana buds in gram, ounce and pound amounts for sale.

“He also offered compromised emails and passwords for sale,” the court documents say. “During this investigation, undercover agents purchased various contraband items from Caliplugmike.”

An affidavit filed by Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Special Agent Christopher Fitzpatrick claims Turrentine was arrested in 2004 for possession of marijuana for sale and convicted while working for the state for conspiring with a colleague “to exploit digital currency. Monero“, Which presents itself as a” secure, private, untraceable “cryptocurrency.

“In March 2018, Turrentine did not challenge illegal access to a computer network to obtain money, property or data wrongly, and was sentenced to three years probation and 30 days in prison,” indicates the affidavit.

State Department of Technology officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday. The Transparent California online database shows that he was last employed there as a system software specialist in 2016, earning $ 119,978 in salary and benefits.

Turrentine was scheduled to appear in court for the first time on Thursday afternoon and is being held without bail.

Investigators began examining Turrentine in November 2018, when a suspicious package addressed to it arrived at the Royal Oaks post office and a drug sniffer dog detected narcotics, court documents show.

Officers went to a house where Turrentine was renting a room and he told them he was not waiting for the package, according to court documents.

“Turrentine gave the officers consent to open the package and inspect the contents,” the court documents say. “Upon opening the package, officers located several thousand white pills that appeared to be counterfeit Xanax tablets.

“Turrentine denied any knowledge of the pills and said he did not expect such delivery.”

Because he was on probation, investigators searched his room and found a bottle of 67 tablets “identical to the pills that were in the suspicious package”, along with prepaid shipping labels, vacuum bags and ‘other articles, according to court documents.

“During the probation search, investigators observed a computer with an active monitor on and observed communications that matched those of an individual operating a darknet vendor site to distribute illegal narcotics,” court documents say . “A quick computer search revealed that Turrentine controlled several dark web provider accounts and used the nicknames Mushmike1776, Calicartconnect, Calicarts, Bigboycarts, and Californiabudz.”

Investigators in Sacramento, San Diego and Orange County continued to track Turrentine using surveillance video from the post office and linking him to the Caliplugmike online account, according to court documents.

“As of April 4, 2020, Caliplugmike had 904 reviews on Empire Marketplace, with a customer service score of 97.13% positive market feedback,” the 50-page complaint states, adding that online sellers “refer to their reviews and ratings of other dark web markets as a way to gain customer trust.

Undercover agents using Bitcoin have made a number of online purchases of marijuana, ecstasy pills, generic Viagra, LSD and a list of 1.4 billion email addresses and passwords that ‘they bought for $ 1, according to court documents.

“Caliplugmike described the advertised article as follows: Compiled from over 100 violations into a simple text file that you can read,” the court documents say. “Most people have changed their email passwords, but most people use the same password on multiple sites.

“You can use the email address and password to access other sites like financial sites, social media, business sites, everything, etc. ; you can even search for your own email and see which password is linked to your email.

During the investigation, investigators learned that Orange County authorities were investigating “the death of an 18-year-old who they say committed suicide after taking counterfeit Xanax bought on the dark web “.

“After analyzing the victim’s darknet market accounts, investigators learned that the victim frequently ordered drugs from darknet markets,” the court documents say. “Investigators learned that the victim ordered a package from a seller with the nickname ‘Caliplugmike’ on the Empire Marketplace.

“The package had been sent from Sacramento.”

In April 2020, investigators discovered that Caliplugmike had “carried out an exit scam” of Empire’s dark website, according to court documents.

“Many customers have posted comments that Caliplugmike took their money and failed to deliver the products promised,” the court documents say. “Caliplugmike also changed its ‘About’ information to read only” GOODBYE, “indicating that it had in fact left the Empire Marketplace.”

Authorities traced Turrentine to other dark websites, court documents said, and continued their surveillance until his arrest on Wednesday.

Sam Stanton has worked for The Bee since 1991 and has covered a variety of topics including politics, criminal justice and breaking news.

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