A 40-year-old Bellevue man is facing federal drug charges in U.S. District Court after authorities allegedly tied him to narcotics sales through the online black market site, Silk Road. The year-long investigation was prompted by the discovery of heroin in a mailed package pulled by the U.S. Postal Service.
Steven L. Sadler allegedly sold cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine through Silk Road, which uses Tor technology to conceal the identity of online users through encryption and redirecting of Internet traffic through multiple volunteer services, and used the Postal Service as a major delivery system for his illegal enterprise.
Court documents state Sadler, under his Silk Road username, “NOD,” was listed in the top 1 percent of sellers on the site. Silk Road was shut down by the FBI on Oct. 2 and its operator, Ross W. Ulbright was arrested on charges of narcotics trafficking, computer hacking and money laundering.
A postal inspection service inspector first removed a package from circulation in September 2012, according to court documents, which was identified by a narcotics dog as containing a controlled substance. Heroin was reportedly found hidden inside a birthday card and scented markers. Multiple other packages were removed from the mailing stream over the course of the investigation, from various post offices and UPS stores.
Federal agents seized a package in March containing heroin and cocaine, and contacted the recipient, court documents state, who told authorities he’d purchased the drugs on Silk Road from “NOD.” The purchaser cooperated with law enforcement in making controlled purchases from “NOD” through Silk Road, which agents also seized.
Tracking devices were placed on vehicles owned by Sadler and also driven by his girlfriend, Jenna White, who is also alleged to have been involved in the sale and delivery of illicit drugs. The vehicles were tracked to numerous post office locations around the region, including Bellevue, Renton, Olympia, Lakewood, Spanaway, Tacoma, Puyallup, Issaquah, Federal Way, SeaTac, Kirkland, Auburn, Mercer Island and more. Postal workers also identified Sadler as a frequent sender of packages under false names, documents state.
Sadler and White were arrested on Oct. 2 and Oct. 3 respectively, appearing in U.S. District Court in Seattle where they were released on personal recognizance bonds. Sadler is set to appear in court again 1 p.m. Oct. 15, and White is scheduled for 1 p.m. Oct. 17. Both are charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.
In the last four months of sales documented on Silk Road, the criminal complaint alleges Sadler sold more than 2,600 grams of cocaine, nearly 600 grams of heroin and 105 grams of methamphetamine. There are eight months of suspected drug sales that could not be determined.