Fentanyl-Laced Dark Web Drug Dealers Receive Lengthy Federal Sentences

Westminster, California – A man from Orange County and another from Houston, Texas have been sentenced to federal prison for their involvement in a dark web scheme selling fentanyl-laced pills that led to fatal overdoses across the country.

Michael Ta, a 25-year-old from Westminster, and Rajiv Srinivasan, a 37-year-old from Houston, received lengthy prison terms on Monday for their crimes. The duo carried out over 3,800 illicit online drug transactions from February 2022 to November 2022, distributing illegal narcotics to approximately 1,400 individuals in all 50 states, according to the United States Department of Justice.

Srinivasan operated under the alias “redlightlabs” on various dark web marketplaces, where they advertised fake M30 oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl and other substances. Through encrypted messaging applications, Srinivasan communicated with buyers and managed payments using virtual currencies that were rerouted through cryptocurrency exchanges.

Meanwhile, Ta collaborated with Srinivasan to fulfill drug orders, sourcing the fentanyl-laced pills and methamphetamine from different suppliers. Their operation dispatched over 123,000 counterfeit pills containing fentanyl, along with large quantities of methamphetamine, “China White” (a mixture of fentanyl powder and black tar heroin), and cocaine.

Following their arrest in November 2022, Srinivasan was extradited to California to face charges. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and distributing fentanyl resulting in death, while Ta pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute. In sentencing, Srinivasan received 19 years and seven months in prison, while Ta was handed 21 years and eight months behind bars.

The pair was connected to at least five fatal overdoses linked to the fentanyl-laced pills, with victims ranging from 19 to 51 years old across states like California, Florida, Colorado, and Arkansas. Prosecutors emphasized the lasting impact on the victims’ families and the broader community affected by the defendants’ actions, labeling it part of a nationwide crisis of addiction and despair.

In a related case, Omar Navia from Los Angeles pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, admitting to supplying fentanyl-laced pills and methamphetamine to Srinivasan and Ta’s customers. Facing a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life imprisonment, Navia awaits sentencing in August.
His co-defendant, Adan Ruiz of Garden Grove, has pleaded not guilty to distribution charges and conspiracy to distribute, with a trial scheduled to commence in September. Both Navia and Ruiz are currently in federal custody.