SURREY, B.C. — Police say three men from Vancouver Island have been arrested for allegedly running a “dark web” drug-trafficking ring in Nanaimo, B.C., following an undercover investigation that began in early 2019.

An RCMP news release Tuesday says a vendor calling itself AlwaysOverweight used cryptocurrency and encrypted messaging applications to sell drugs that included methamphetamine, oxycodone, cocaine, MDMA, Xanax and fentanyl that was advertised as heroin.

The RCMP’s organized crime division describes the dark web as the internet’s “third hidden layer,” below the open web and deep web, and says it is accessed through special browsers that hide the digital footprint of users.

Police say they were able to penetrate the criminal group’s “digital barriers” and identified a Nanaimo, B.C., address as the vendor’s physical location.

They say officers seized a variety of drugs, packaging, mailing envelopes, documents, cash, computers and data storage devices during searches.

Police say three men were arrested in February 2020 and are scheduled to appear at the Nanaimo provincial courthouse June 7, charged with trafficking and other offences.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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