A group of individuals of Indian origin, including a father-son pair, has received a combined 24-year prison sentence after being found guilty of operating a substantial illicit drug production facility in the western part of London, according to Scotland Yard.
Allen Valentine, aged 63, and his son Roshan Valentine, aged 39, along with Roshan’s childhood friend Krunal Patel, aged 40, were handed their sentences during a court hearing at Isleworth Crown Court on Thursday. This comes after the Metropolitan Police’s Cyber Crime Unit successfully demonstrated in court that the men had been illicitly selling counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs on the dark web.
Allen Valentine received an 11-year prison term, while Roshan Valentine was sentenced to seven years, and Patel received a six-year jail sentence.
Detective Constable Alex Hawkins, who led the investigation for the Met’s Cyber Crime Unit, stated, “The three men ran a sophisticated, large-scale production of fake pharmaceutical drugs sold on the dark web that appeared to be genuine”.
“Their operation was solely for the greed of those involved bearing no concern for the vulnerabilities of those purchasing these drugs. Some of the drugs contained completely different chemicals from those which should be in the genuine tablets; some of them are extremely dangerous,” he added.
All three individuals faced charges of conspiring to manufacture Class C drugs and engaging in money laundering activities in August of last year. While Patel and Roshan Valentine admitted to the offences in February, Allen Valentine pleaded not guilty but was subsequently convicted following a trial at Isleworth Crown Court in May.
Detective Superintendent Helen Rance, who heads the Metropolitan Police’s Cyber Crime Unit, emphasised their expertise in combating the sale of illegal goods on the dark web, stating, “Our specialist Cyber Crime Unit are experts at infiltrating the sale of illegal items on the dark web. We work collaboratively with International Law Enforcement partners to ensure operations like this are stopped in their tracks.”
According to the police, the trio managed to amass illicit profits totalling at least 3.5 million pounds through their illicit operation. Multiple accounts on various dark web marketplaces were discovered advertising the sale of drugs including Xanax, Diazepam, and Valium in the past.
The charges brought against them encompassed a range of offences, including conspiracy to produce, possess, and distribute controlled substances classified as Class C drugs.
These charges also included possessing Class C controlled drugs with the intent to distribute, conspiring to sell trademarked goods without authorisation, conspiring to use registered trademarks for labelling or packaging goods without authorisation, possession of tools designed to produce unauthorised copies of registered trademarks, and conspiracy to conceal, convert, or transfer criminal proceeds.
The investigation by Metropolitan Police detectives commenced in January 2022, and it didn’t take long for them to uncover that the three men were regularly visiting a warehouse unit situated at Acton Business Park in western London.
This warehouse unit served as the hub for the production, packaging, and distribution of the illicit drugs. Operating under the facade of a company named Puzzle Logistics Limited, which had been established in 2016, the men went about their activities.
Each of the individuals would make daily visits to the unit, often spending a significant portion of the day there. Notably, Krunal Patel would frequently depart the premises carrying large bags, only to return 10 to 15 minutes later without the contents of those bags. Customers seeking these drugs would purchase them on the dark web, using cryptocurrency as their payment method, and the products would subsequently be dispatched.
Detectives employed specialised cyber techniques to conclusively establish that the Valentines and Patel were indeed involved in the production and sale of these illegal substances. It was determined that the trio had converted 3.5 million pounds from cryptocurrency into fiat currency or pound sterling, with law enforcement subsequently freezing the associated accounts.
On the 17th of August 2022, Krunal Patel was apprehended in the vicinity of the warehouse, with 15 parcels designated for dispatch to various addresses throughout the United Kingdom.
Within these parcels, law enforcement uncovered tablets bearing the imprints ‘Xanax’ and ‘Teva,’ both of which are brand names associated with licensed medications falling under the Benzodiazepine category. Subsequently, Roshan and Allen Valentine were arrested later on the same day.
During a search of the warehouse premises, officers made a startling discovery. They stumbled upon a concealed laboratory that contained an extensive array of equipment and multiple containers filled with chemical substances. Additionally, numerous crates containing pills manufactured on-site were also found as part of the investigation.