ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Phoenix, Arizona, couple pleaded guilty today to conspiring to distribute multiple controlled substances including heroin, methamphetamine, and para-fluorofentanyl over the darknet.
According to court documents, from approximately January 2021 through May 2023, Cheerish Noel Taylor, 36, and Robert James Fischer, 35, ran the darknet monikers “SafeServe,” “Sky_HIGH,” and others across multiple darknet markets. On these markets, the co-conspirators advertised and sold various controlled substances, including crystal methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, Xanax, Adderall, suboxone, and counterfeit pills that the conspirators advertised as oxycodone but that instead were laced with para-fluorofentanyl, a dangerous fentanyl analogue. During the course of the conspiracy, the conspirators made over 1,100 sales of controlled substances over the darknet using these accounts.
The darknet, also called the darkweb, is a portion of the Internet that hosts darknet markets, or hidden commercial websites. A darknet market operates as a black market, selling or brokering transactions involving legal products, as well as drugs, weapons, counterfeit currency, stolen credit card details, forged documents, unlicensed pharmaceuticals, steroids, and other illicit goods.
For over two years, Cheerish Noel Taylor, 36, and Robert James Fischer, 35, operated the vendor profiles, "SafeServe" and "Sky_HIGH" on multiple dark web marketplaces including, ASAP, Dark0de, ToRRez, and White House. The couple fulfilled over 1,000 orders and distributed large quantities of heroin, methamphetamine, and counterfeit oxycodone pills through the vendor accounts.
The couple's arrest stemmed from an investigation launched in November 2021 against the SafeServe vendor profile. During the investigation, the investigators made multiple undercover purchases from the vendor. The purchases revealed that the vendor shipped from Phoenix.
Undercover purchases and what was recovered. (Source: Court documents)
The investigators found the mailer's fingerprints on a drug package they ordered in early February 2022. Further investigations revealed that the fingerprints belonged to Taylor.
The investigators then established that Taylor was a close associate of three suspected darknet vendors based in Phoenix.
When questioned, one of these suspects told the investigators that they had taught Taylor and his boyfriend, Fischer, how to run a dark web vendor's account. The informant also revealed that he knew Fischer was in charge of operating the vendor accounts, while Taylor packaged and mailed the drugs to their buyers.
A search of electronic devices seized from convicted dark web drug dealers, Rick Schiffner and Devin Langer, revealed that the duo was in close contact with the couple. Most of their conversations revolved around the sale of drugs through the dark web.
One of the conversations between Langer and Fischer
Conversations between Langer and Fischer showed that Langer helped Fischer set up his vendor accounts.
The investigators conducted surveillance at the couple's residence in January 2023. The investigators observed Taylor leave the residence in her car to a post office. Surveillance footage at the post office showed that she placed five packages into a mailbox.
The investigators seized the packages and opened one of the packages after receiving permission from its intended recipient. The investigators found out that it had been packaged in the same way as the drug packages they had received from SafeServe. They found an undisclosed quantity of meth inside the package.
Fischer and Taylor sold counterfeit oxycodone pills, which they marketed as “pressed m30s” and “blues,” knowing that they did not contain oxycodone, and instead contained fentanyl or a fentanyl analogue. Within the product description for the purported “blues,” the defendant’s darknet vendor page on the site ASAP Market stated that:
“These are not reg M30s they are PRESSED and are very strong…seasoned users only please.” In another listing for the purported “blues,” the defendants advertised:
“small fine print: these are NOT from a pharmacy they are PRESSED from Mexico. Seasoned users Only because these are strong AF not for those who are freshly using.”
Fischer and Taylor sold other drugs on the darknet that they advertised as being legitimate, pharmaceutically, produced drugs. For example, the two sold what they described as “pharmaceutical Adderall’ for over $13 per pill.
The two shipped controlled substances nationwide through the United States Postal Service, and attempted to disguise the controlled substances within packages amidst dollar-store goods, such as children’s stickers, beads, birthday cards, and seasonal gift items. At times, the controlled substances were hidden inside of toy packaging.
Taylor is scheduled to be sentenced on December 8. She faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison. Fischer is scheduled to be sentenced on January 5, 2024. He also faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division; and Damon E. Wood, Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, made the announcement after Senior U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis III accepted the plea.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Call is prosecuting the case.