PITTSBURGH - On the surface, it looks like your typical online store, but it's what they're buying that's grabbing the attention of the FBI. Special Agent Eric Yingling with the FBI Pittsburgh gave 11 Investigates an inside look at the dark web, where drugs are sold every day, everywhere.
"They have scores, they have user reviews," Yingling said. "This very much almost like an Amazon."
The drugs could be coming from as close as Cleveland or from foreign countries.
"In this case there's about 2,500 heroin listings on here at any given time," Yingling said.
According to the FBI, illegal online marketplaces are becoming popular. They lead to the flow of deadly drugs like heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil onto Pittsburgh streets.
It led to the creation of "Operation Disarray," a nationwide effort to disrupt the online drug market. Much of the FBI's work is being done right here in Pittsburgh.
- 2,600 stamp bags of heroin, cash seized from suspected drug dealer's home
- Three local counties receive funding to fight against opioid epidemic
- Man arrested after searching dark web for girl to ‘murder and eat’
"We're shifting our focus from what we can consider more traditional street level dealing into this realm," Yingling said. "That's where the customer base has shifted as well."
The focus on the dark web went a step further last January, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions came to Pittsburgh to announce the creation of the "Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement" team, better known as J-CODE.
Emily Odom is the chief of the FBI's high-tech organized crime unit. She tells 11 Investigates that the growth of drug purchases on the dark web makes these partnerships essential.
"We're actually bringing together our partners and we're working this in a more strategic and coordinated fashion than we ever have before," Odom said.
More focus and attention can be slow to produce results. Special Agent Yingling says they continue to see drug dealers turning to the dark web. Those moves are putting more areas at risk with drug deals happening behind a computer, instead of on a street corner.
"If you have a mailbox in your neighborhood, you could have drugs being passed through your neighborhood," Yingling said. "That danger is not only to the end consumer, but for the people who carry it there."
© 2019 Cox Media Group.