Empire Market Vendor NeverPressedRX Sentenced to 23 Years in Federal Prison
The illicit drug operation between a Nebraska pharmacist and a dark web dealer from Maryland was going so well that the pair was running out of drugs to sell, according to federal prosecutors.
They said the pharmacist, Hyrum T. Wilson, 41, of Auburn, Neb., sent more than 19,000 doses of prescription drugs from Hyrum’s Family Value Pharmacy in Auburn to William Anderson Burgamy IV, 33, of Hanover, Md., from August 2019 to April 2020.
But when Mr. Wilson hit limits set by a distributor, capping the amount of drugs he could obtain and send to Mr. Burgamy, the two came up with a plan.
The gains would have been twofold, prosecutors said: Mr. Wilson and Mr. Burgamy planned to raid a rival pharmacy, scooping up a supply of drugs to sell. Then, after burning down the pharmacy, business would be booming at Hyrum’s, increasing the amount of drugs Mr. Wilson could send to Mr. Burgamy to sell on his site on the dark web, NeverPressedRx.
On Friday, in a U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., Mr. Burgamy was sentenced to 14 years in prison, and Mr. Wilson to nine years. Mr. Burgamy had earlier pleaded guilty to four felony counts of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, money laundering and firearms conspiracy and conspiracy to use explosives. Mr. Wilson had pleaded guilty to three felony counts, similar to Mr. Burgamy’s, though without the firearms count.
The plot, which the pair had dubbed “Operation Firewood,” involved skull masks, duffel bags, Molotov cocktails and a rental car, with the supplies list jotted into a black leather-bound notebook. Mr. Wilson crafted a “getaway” map with escape routes for Mr. Burgamy to use after the attack, the Justice Department said.
But the plot was never carried out. It began to unfold in December, when the F.B.I., along with agents from the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration, began investigating NeverPressedRx, Mr. Burgamy’s site, as part of an international investigation into trafficking on the dark web, according to the Justice Department.
Starting in January, investigators placed and received nine undercover purchases of oxycodone and Adderall from NeverPressedRx. During the investigation, law enforcement identified Mr. Burgamy as the site’s operator; surveillance was conducted on Mr. Burgamy “on several occasions as he placed packages” from NeverPressedRx into the mail, court documents said.
The site, which proclaimed that “all of our stock comes directly from a US Pharmacy,” had a stellar reputation: 99.95 percent of its reviews were positive, investigators found in April.
On April 9, federal law enforcement arrested Mr. Burgamy at his home before raiding it. They found eight firearms, all loaded, including two AR-15 assault rifles, as well as “thousands of prescription opioid pills,” according to court documents.
Federal law enforcement agents executed search warrants at Mr. Wilson’s home and at his pharmacy on the same day. He was arrested a week later.
The Justice Department said that Mr. Burgamy gave a cut of the profits from the drug sales to Mr. Wilson through Bitcoin payments, wire transfers and bundles of cash sent through the mail. Mr. Burgamy claimed that he made nearly $1 million through the operation.
While the pair was waiting for coronavirus restrictions to be lifted before they carried out the plan to bomb the rival pharmacy, the virus offered another opportunity, the department said: Mr. Wilson and Mr. Burgamy discussed selling hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to profit from the pandemic.
Mr. Wilson’s lawyer, Joseph Howard, said in a phone interview on Friday evening that his client was coaxed into the drug dealing and the firebomb plot by Mr. Burgamy after the two had met online playing the “War Dragons” video game.
Mr. Wilson is on the autism spectrum, Mr. Howard said, and “just can’t function socially.” He was happy to have found a friend in Mr. Burgamy, Mr. Howard said. When he realized he was “trapped,” Mr. Wilson tried selling the pharmacy in an effort to escape the operation, Mr. Howard said.
Mr. Burgamy’s lawyer, Elizabeth Ann Mullin, a public defender, declined to comment on Friday night.
Hyrum’s Family Value Pharmacy was one of three pharmacies in Nebraska chosen in December for a state health department pilot program to distribute free naloxone nasal spray kits to prevent opioid overdoses.