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Following the dark path of drug dealers on the dark web

How investigators took down two dark net powerhouses.

 

Let’s say you sell illegal drugs on the Internet.

Maybe fentanyl, a powerful painkiller that’s lead addiction, overdoses and death.

You were doing your business on AlphaBay, the largest criminal marketplace on the dark web, according to Europol, with 40,000 sellers and business reaching about one billion dollars over the last three years.

AlphaBay is an eBay-like site, living on the anonymous Tor network, which can hide your identity and your location.

At least, it did until July 5, when law enforcement agents took it down. 

No problem, you said, I’ll just move to another big dark web marketplace.

You found your home at Hansa, one of the top three dark web black markets, as per Europol.

But what you did not know is that the Dutch National Police had taken over Hansa, watching as dealer after dealer moved their illegal ops to the new site.

You may be busted, maybe now, maybe later. Law enforcement shut down Hansa today.

 

Law enforcement replaced the home page of the Hansa site with a new image announcing its seizure. Image via Europol.

 

Let’s hope you aren’t really a dark web drug dealer, for many reasons. The news of the shutdown isn’t going over well with some people.

“F— you, f—ing Europol,” wrote checkyourself1001 “Send me to prison, you f—ing piece of s—!”

“For real, I just ordered for a few hundrets,” wrote bobyjon77. “WTF. First I lost money in alpha, now on hansa. F— my life. I am going back to the street.” 

“Everyone avoid migrating your stuff under the same usernames!!!!” wrote torcur on Reddit. “Also wait a week before using DNMs [dark net markets] (if you came from Hansa!)”

European officials have a different view.

“The Dark Web is growing into a haven of rampant criminality. This is a threat to our societies and our economies that we can only face together, on a global scale,” said Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, in a press release.

 

People react to the Hansa closure on Reddit. Image via Reddit

 

AlphaBay

Agents arrested the man they call the creator and administrator of AlphaBay on the same day they shut the site down, July 5, part of an operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Alexandre Cazes took in tens of millions of dollars in commissions from the illegal trading on his site, from drugs to guns to criminal malware, and was living a luxurious life with his wife in Thailand, according to court documents obtained by Forbes.

Authorities seized millions in cryptocurrency, took over computer servers in Canada and Thailand, and demanded he forfeit assets like his Lamborghini, Porsche, and BMW motorcycle.

He was later found dead in jail in Bangkok last week, news reports said.

 

An image from Alexandre Cazes’ LinkedIn profile. Image via LinkedIn

 

Hansa

In the meantime, Dutch police worked with Europol and other agencies to take down Hansa.

They arrested two people running the site in Germany, and took over servers in Germany, Netherlands and Lithuania, Europol said.

On June 20, they took over Hansa.

On July 5, AlphaBay went down, leaving users looking for a new, illegal home.

“In fact they flocked to Hansa in their droves, with an eight-fold increase in the number of new members of Hansa recorded immediately following the shutdown of AlphaBay,” Europol said in a press release.

 

Image of AlphaBay site. Image via Europol

 

New place

Dealers are already on the move — again.

Listings are up at another dark net site called Dream Market, reported NBC News.

But the investigations are not over.

For example, Dutch police sent about 10,000 Hansa buyer addresses to Europol, according to the release. And 37 countries received information for follow-up investigations.

 

Warnings went up on Reddit after law enforcement announced the shutdown. Image via Reddit

 

Courts

A number of cases related to AlphaBay and Hansa are already going through the courts.

Federal agents arrested a man they say is AlphaBay drug dealer “NarcoBoss.”

Henry Koffie went by the name countstackula on Twitter and Facebook, and posts pictures of large checks made out in his name.

“Count money and stack it,” he wrote on his Twitter profile.

 

The man who went by “countstackula” on Twitter was arrested, accused of selling fentanyl on the dark web. Image via Twitter

 

Investigators said he sold fentanyl online that lead to overdoses in the Northwest.

The attorney who represented Koffie after his arrest in Pennsylvania said it can be difficult to connect dark net information with a real person.

“Any time you’re dealing with a crime where someone’s accused of committing a crime through the dark net,” attorney Enrique Latoison told Archer News, “it’s hard to tie it to a specific individual, to a specific identity.” 

“That’s why ‘dark net,’” he added.

Koffie is going through court proceedings in Oregon, now with a different attorney.

There may be more cases to come.

“Our fight against criminal activities online and offline will continue and intensify,” Avramopoulos said.

 

Main image: Spider web in the mist. Photo credit: Anne Worner via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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