A 55-year-old Florida man was sentenced to 36 months in prison earlier this week for selling hundreds of thousands of “fake Xanax” pills on the darknet, wrapping up a 10-month court case initiated by the FBI Washington Field Office. According to prosecutors, Benjamin Burdick, of Inverness, Florida, conducted his sales under the vendor name Rangoon on Empire Market between Apr 2019 and Oct 2020.
Investigator tests of the pills found they contained a mixture of benzodiazepines, including etizolam, adinazolam, and flualprazolam; the latter being a variant of the active ingredient in Xanax (alprazolam). The pills were pressed using microcrystalline cellulose as a filler – a substance which Burdick had received shipments of at a return address he used when mailing orders for his Empire Market customers.
Scene from the removal of the pill pressing operation at the Burdick residence. Source: Citrus County Sheriff’s Office.
The result of a year-long investigation that yielded a search warrant, Burdick’s home was raided on Oct 14, 2020, where he was arrested by law enforcement. Discovered at the residence was around 16,000 pressed “fake Xanax” pills, $143,000 in cash and several firearms. The pills, which weighed around 15 lbs. in all, had already been pre-packaged in different sizes according to listings posted by Rangoon on Empire Market.
Among the other evidence collected during the raid was a stamp which Burdick used to press the word “XANAX” on each pill. In all, Burdick is thought to have sold nearly 250,000 pills, which frequently changed in chemical content. Burdick’s wife, who allegedly helped him prepare the pills for sale, was also arrested during the raid, and faces similar charges.
After purchasing several orders of the pills from Rangoon on Empire Market, law enforcement used surveillance at a local post office to identify Burdick as the recipient of a package of microcrystalline cellulose. This was later traced to the content of the pressed pills.
A GPS tracker placed on Burdick’s car revealed he drove to a post office in a nearby city to deliver 56 packages. One of these packages was addressed to a Virginia resident who later gave law enforcement permission to open the package and analyze its contents. Additional purchases and surveillance conducted between Aug and Sept 2020 then gave investigators the evidence required for the search warrant.