The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently busted a nationwide Southern California-based narcotics operation that sold cocaine and methamphetamine over the internet and delivered the drugs hidden in toys through the U.S. Postal Service in exchange for cryptocurrency.
Undercover DEA agents working in league with the FBI purchased drugs from the operation in 2017 and 2018 on darknet locations like Silk Road and AlphaBay while keeping three suspects under surveillance, including by the use of a hidden pole camera outside of a residence.
Anh Pham, considered the ring leader by federal agents, as well as Joseph Michael Gifford quickly pleaded guilty in hopes of significantly lowering their maximum potential punishment of life in prison plus fines of $10 million or the gross profits of the drug sales, whichever is greater, according to federal prosecutors.
The third suspect, Carlos Miguel Gallardo, has not yet entered a plea.
Though Pham lived in a double-bayed Hawaiian Gardens warehouse where the drugs were stored and packaged, his operation unwittingly shipped the drugs to customers from post offices in Irvine, Fullerton, Los Alamitos, Santa Ana, Cypress, Long Beach and Los Angeles without the traffickers knowing of constant surveillance.
The narcotics were often hidden in toys, boxes of chocolates, school lunchboxes, figurines like Superman and Batman as well as in inflatables like beach balls and “Splash-n-Swim” pool rings for kids.
A confidential informant, who’d previously sold narcotics to Pham, began working for the DEA and FBI not for money but rather to reduce his punishment after violating the terms of probation from a prison sentence.
U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter in Los Angeles will preside in the case.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; obtained one of the last exclusive prison interviews with Charles Manson disciple Susan Atkins; won inclusion in Jeffrey Toobin’s The Best American Crime Reporting for his coverage of a white supremacist’s senseless murder of a beloved Vietnamese refugee; launched multi-year probes that resulted in the FBI arrests and convictions of the top three ranking members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department; and gained praise from New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.