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March 19, 2015Seattle, WAUnited StatesContraband

Top-ranked 'Silk Road' drug dealer sentenced to 5 years in prison

SEATTLE – A prolific online drug dealer who distributed cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine through the digital black market website “Silk Road” was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison and four years’ supervised release.

Steven Sadler, 40, of Bellevue, pleaded guilty last May to conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs, following an investigation by the Seattle-Tacoma Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST Seattle), including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. According to investigators, Sadler was one of the top-ranked sellers on the site.

“This defendant thought he could use the Internet to spread the poison of illegal drugs far and wide,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “We will not allow Internet connectivity to be blatantly misused to harm public safety. Moreover, as this and other prosecutions demonstrate, attempts to hide in the “dark net” will not succeed.”

According to the plea agreement, Sadler admitted he began selling drugs on the Silk Road website in 2012 under the screen name “NOD.” The site was well-known by criminals as a source for multiple types of contraband. He took his orders online and shipped his illicit products through the U.S. mail.

“Sadler transformed himself into one of the top Silk Road drug distributors and profited from the destruction of untold lives,” said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of HSI Seattle. “Criminals who operate digital black markets and those who trade their illicit goods on them believe they are above the law. They are mistaken. HSI and its partners are dedicating considerable resources to infiltrating and dismantling underground Internet sites such as the former Silk Road.”

When police searched Sadler’s apartment in July 2013, they found a stash of cocaine and heroin, both weighing more than a kilogram each, as well as 400 grams of methamphetamine. They also found a semi-automatic pistol hidden under the mattress in his bedroom, court records state.

Sadler is forfeiting a 2007 BMW 525 and $4,200 in cash seized by investigators.

BEST Seattle is comprised of members from HSI; U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations; the U.S. Secret Service; the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and the Seattle and Port of Seattle police departments. BEST Seattle investigates smuggling and related crimes and combats criminal organizations seeking to exploit vulnerabilities at the Seattle and Tacoma seaports and adjacent waterways.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington prosecuted the case.

Updated: 03/20/2015