A former darknet market vendor in the U.S. changed his plea to guilty yesterday nearly two years after being busted for his dealings on Empire Market and Wall Street Market. According to federal prosecutors, Gilberto Melgarejo – along with his partner Brooke Gray – operated vendor accounts under the name “THEQUEENSHIVE” which they used to sell a variety of narcotics, referring to the products in their listings as “The Queen’s Honey.” Gray entered a guilty plea of her own on Aug. 10, 2021.
Among the items sold by the pair between March and September 2019 were meth, fentanyl, heroin, LSD and ecstasy, which they marketed as “the highest quality product at the best price on the market.” In all, around 90 orders were processed under the moniker “THEQUEENSHIVE”, several of them going to undercover DEA agents.
Vendor operations took place in a non-descript apartment building in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where market orders were packaged and readied for delivery by the pair, who are both in their 20s. Neighbors interviewed by local media at the time said they never noticed anything out of the ordinary, other than Melgaro’s apartment seemed to have “a lot of activity.”
Bitcoin obtained from the vendor sales was then sold for PayPal cash handled by a fake account which investigators traced back to Melgarejo. On two occasions, traffic cameras caught Melgarejo’s vehicle headed to postal counters at local gas stations to distribute customer orders. In yesterday’s press release, the DEA referred to their decision to use local USPS counters as “a futile effort to evade detection.”
By Nov. 9, 2019, prosecutors had compiled enough evidence against the duo to file a criminal complaint, leading to their arrest the following week.
Melgarejo faces a maximum punishment of a lifetime prison sentence – an outcome possibly hoped to be avoided with yesterday’s plea change.