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May 24, 2021Seattle, United StatesNarcotics

HSI efforts help put 'dark web' drug dealer in prison

SEATTLE — A 31-year-old ‘dark web’ heroin dealer was sentenced today in U.S. District Court here to five years in prison, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. Zachary Madding of Mill Creek, was arrested at a long-stay hotel in Mukilteo, after a horrific assault on his estranged girlfriend. At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge James L. Robart said, “The person who is before me is not a good person. He is a common criminal who is engaged in the most serious behavior…. On the dark web you have no idea who you are dealing with… Because of your actions, there are 1,600 families out there who are going through the pain of addiction.”

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with assistance from the Mukilteo Police Department.

“This defendant put thousands of people at risk of death by anonymously sending his potent heroin to all corners of the country,” said Gorman. “He knew all too well the destruction his drugs inflicted, having critically injured two young pedestrians while driving under the influence of narcotics. Dealing on the dark web spreads the destruction from heroin abuse to a far larger geographic area with callous disregard for how communities and addicts are damaged.”

According to records filed in the case, Madding first came to the attention of law enforcement in May 2018, when he attacked his estranged girlfriend by forcing Xanax down her throat and forcibly spraying fentanyl up her nose. Fortunately, medics were able to use Narcan to revive the victim. Madding was arrested. In his hotel room, law enforcement discovered false identification documents, shipping labels, drug ledgers, crushed Xanax tables and the fentanyl spray. An investigation by HSI revealed that from as early as 2016, Madding was selling heroin on dark web websites – these are an extensive network of computers that conceal the true Internet Protocol (“IP”) address of computing devices. Even as different marketplace sites were seized by law enforcement and shut down, Madding moved on to different sites. He took care to avoid detection by being paid in bitcoin, encrypting communications, and shipping drugs in such a way to avoid detection by drug detecting canines.

In all, Madding made more than 1,600 sales on the dark web and pocketed $72,000 in bitcoin.

“Madding’s rein of violence and drug dealing is over,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in the Pacific Northwest. “The law enforcement partnerships we have in Washington are stronger than criminals who hide behind computer screens peddling poison in our communities.”

Madding’s dark web dealing accelerated after he was released from a state prison sentence for vehicular assault. In that case, in August 2014, Madding drove under the influence of heroin and struck two teenagers as they walked on the side of the road. Both were badly injured, and one suffered a critical and life-altering brain injury.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Marie Dalton.

HSI is a directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 Special Agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Updated: 05/26/2021