The list of supplies needed to rob and blow up the pharmacist’s competition was tucked in a black leather-bound notebook, prosecutors say: face masks, duffel bags, a rental car, a canister of gasoline and at least four firearms.
For more than a year, the pharmacist, Hyrum T. Wilson, had been illegally selling prescription opioids from his shop, Hyrum’s Family Value Pharmacy in Auburn, Neb., on the dark web, according to federal prosecutors. But he needed more drugs to keep the illegal side business going.
So Mr. Wilson, 41, and a drug dealer who had been helping him run the illegal business hatched a plan to steal opioids from a rival pharmacy in Auburn and then firebomb it to cripple the business.
On Friday, Mr. Hyrum was arrested and charged by federal prosecutors in Virginia with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to use fire and explosives — including Molotov cocktails — and possession of firearms.
In an affidavit that detailed the plot, prosecutors said he planned the firebombing with William Anderson Burgamy IV, a drug dealer who had been illegally selling the prescription medication online for Mr. Wilson.
The side trade was going well, but Mr. Wilson had hit the limit for how much medication he could order for his pharmacy. He needed more volume, prosecutors said.
“Wilson and Burgamy believed that the destruction of the Victim Pharmacy would cause Wilson’s own pharmacy business to flourish,” Samad D. Shahrani, a special agent with the F.B.I. field office that conducted the investigation, wrote in a court affidavit. “In turn, Wilson’s distributor would increase the amount of controlled substances that Wilson could order to meet the increased demand.”
Mr. Wilson, who did not have lawyer listed in court documents, did not respond to requests for comment. Mr. Burgamy, who was arrested a week before Mr. Wilson, was ordered detained by a magistrate judge on April 13.
Mr. Burgamy’s lawyer, a federal public defender, declined to comment.
Prosecutors said that Mr. Wilson had regularly mailed drugs from his pharmacy to Mr. Burgamy since at least last August.
Mr. Burgamy advertised and sold the drugs using encrypted email accounts on the dark web, giving a cut of the profits to Mr. Wilson through Bitcoin payments, wire transfers and bundles of cash sent through the mail, authorities said.
In court documents, the F.B.I. said it started investigating Mr. Burgamy last December after learning about his account on the dark web. Unlike most sites on the traditional internet, the dark web uses technology that lets both sides of an online interaction hide their identity and location from each other and law enforcement.
In January, agents with the F.B.I. and the Food and Drug Administration began making undercover purchases from Mr. Burgamy, who went by the name NeverPressedRx and had a reputation for selling high-quality drugs. The agents ordered the pills from Virginia, where they were also delivered.
In an email to an undercover agent, Mr. Burgamy said he was running a “five-star business,” according to court documents.
“We will never succumb to purchasing drugs off the street that could be potentially tampered with for your safety,” he wrote in his online profile, according to prosecutors.
He told potential buyers, “all of our stock comes directly from a U.S. pharmacy.”
That pharmacy, federal agents learned, was Hyrum’s Family Value Pharmacy.
On April 9, federal agents arrested Mr. Burgamy on drug charges and conducted a search of his Maryland home, where they found a cache of guns, thousands of prescription opioid pills and a notebook that referred to a plan called Operation Firewood.
Texts between the two men revealed that they had been planning the operation for months, according to prosecutors: Mr. Burgamy and another person, who was not named in court documents, would don skull masks, arm themselves with an assault rifle and a shotgun, and hit the rival pharmacy at night.
Mr. Wilson gave Mr. Burgamy a getaway map showing the fastest routes to Kansas and Missouri after the firebombing, authorities said.
The men hoped destroying the rival business would send its clients to Mr. Wilson, who could then increase the amount of prescription drugs the pharmacy was allowed to order.
“My wholesaler looks at my volume and determines how much oxy I can order every 30 days,” he texted Mr. Burgamy. “If I get all the pharmacy business, they’ll bump my allotment up.”
Mr. Burgamy later texted Mr. Wilson: “You’ll be sole pharmacy, you got my word.”
At the same time that authorities said Mr. Wilson was plotting to expand his illegal drug trade, Hyrum’s Family Value Pharmacy was one of three Nebraska pharmacies chosen to participate in a pilot program to distribute free naloxone nasal spray kits to prevent overdoses from opioids.
Under the program, Hyrum’s Family Value Pharmacy would distribute the kits in partnership with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
“This program has the potential to save lives in Nebraska,” Marcia Mueting, vice president for professional affairs of the Nebraska Pharmacists Association, said in a statement last December.
On its website, Mr. Wilson’s pharmacy states, “We practice honesty.”
“We never allow another pharmacy to beat our prescription cost, and in addition, we treat them like a member of our family,” the site says. “After all, Family Value Pharmacy was built to help the community as its No. 1 priority.”