Friday, July 21, 2017

Dark Web Criminal Marketplaces Go Dark

Law Enforcement Officials on Thursday said they Shut Down two of the world’s Largest Illegal Stores on the Internet.

AlphaBay, which was shut down earlier this month, sold Heroin, Fentanyl, Firearms, and other Illicit Goods to 200,000 users, and was worth upwards of $23 million.

Canadian-born Alexandre Cazes, the Site’s alleged 25-year-old Owner, was found Dead last week, apparently taking his life on July 12th, in a Thailand Prison Cell, after being Arrested on July 5th by Local Police following his indictment in California. The Justice Department also is going after the Assets of Cazes. Cazes was a Canadian Citizen who was living in Thailand and also had obtained Citizenship from Antigua and Barbuda.

Dutch Officials last month seized Control of a similar site, Hansa Market, seizing Illegal Digital Currency Accounts valued at roughly $2.6 million, or about 1,000 Bitcoins.

Officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and Europol Executive Director Robert Mark Wainwright, heralded the Action Thursday morning as a Message to Criminals everywhere.

"This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of this entire year," Sessions said. "Make no mistake, the forces of law and justice face a challenge from criminal and transnational criminal organizations who think they can commit their crime with impunity by going dark. This case ... says, 'You are not safe, you cannot hide. We will find you, dismantle your organization and network and we will prosecute you.'"

According to the McCabe, AlphaBay was 10 times the size of Silk Road, a previous massive Dark Web Marketplace that DOJ busted in 2013.

Officials especially noted of the Sale of Fentanyl, a deadly Opioid Drug, on AlphaBay, saying in early 2017, 122 Vendors advertised Fentanyl and 238 advertised Heroin on the Marketplace. Prosecutors also linked multiple Opioid-related Deaths in the U.S. to Drugs that were traced back to AlphaBay.

Overall, the Marketplace boasted more than 40,000 Vendors and 200,000 Users, according to the DOJ, citing an AlphaBay Staff Member. There were more than 250,000 Listings for Drugs and Toxic Chemicals, Sessions said.

The Dark Web refers a Layer of the Internet only Accessible through Anonymizing Networks. While Anonymous browsers like Tor Service a number of Legitimate purposes, including protecting Vulnerable Individuals like Political Dissidents, for example, they also facilitate a robust Criminal Underground where everything from Drugs to Hacking materials to Stolen Identities to Child Pornography can be bought and sold.

AlphaBay operated much like any Legitimate E-Commerce site, including having a Public Relations Manager, Security Administrator, and "Scam Watchers".

Court documents also said others were involved in the Conspiracy and Officials said they would also be investigating individuals who were found through Undercover Operations.

McCabe noted that other Dark Marketplaces would likely fill the Void created by the Law Enforcement Crackdown but warned Criminals that the DOJ and its Partners would never relent. "We will go to the ends of the earth to find these people and to stop them," McCabe said.

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