Moderator of dark net marketplace AlphaBay sentenced


In 2017 the Department of Justice issued a statement concerning an investigation into, and the subsequent shut down of what they described as "the largest criminal marketplace on the Internet" at that time.


According to the statement, AlphaBay "operated for over two years on the dark web and was used to sell deadly illegal drugs, stolen and fraudulent identification documents and access devices, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms, and toxic chemicals throughout the world."


June 1, 2017 the websites founder and administrator, 25-year-old Alexandre Cazes, a Canadian citizen was indicted in the Eastern District of California on one count of conspiracy to commit identity theft, four counts of unlawful transfer of false identification documents, one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud, one count of trafficking in device making equipment, and one count of money laundering conspiracy.


On July 5, Cazes was arrested at his residence in Thailand by Thai authorities on behalf of the United States.  One week later he was found dead in his cell of an apparent suicide. As a result, the charges against him were dropped.


At the time of his arrest however, investigators claimed that they discovered an unencrypted laptop at his residence which provided information on others associated with AlphaBay.


“This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of the year – taking down the largest dark net marketplace in history,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the time. “Make no mistake, the forces of law and justice face a new challenge from the criminals and transnational criminal organizations who think they can commit their crimes with impunity using the dark net.  The dark net is not a place to hide. The Department will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict, and incarcerate criminals, drug traffickers and their enablers wherever they are. We will use every tool we have to stop criminals from exploiting vulnerable people and sending so many Americans to an early grave. I believe that because of this operation, the American people are safer – safer from the threat of identity fraud and malware, and safer from deadly drugs.”


Citing publicly available information on AlphaBay before the website was taken down, one employee stated that the site boasted "over 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors," and that there were "over 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals ... and over 100,000 listings for stolen and fraudulent identification documents and access devices, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms and fraudulent services," actively listed on the site.


As a result of the information discovered on Cazes' laptop, those affiliated with the website are being pursued through a court of law and the latest individual to be sentenced is 26-year-old Bryan Connor Herrell of Aurora, Colorado who served as a moderator for the marketplace.


Herrell has been sentenced to 11 of a possible 20 years after pleading guilty to “conspiring to engage in a racketeer influenced corrupt organization” in January.


“This sentence serves as further proof that criminals cannot hide behind technology to break the law,” said U.S. Attorney Scott.  “Operating behind the veil of the darknet may seem to offer shelter from criminal investigations, but people should think twice before ordering or selling drugs online—you will be caught.  This office will continue using all means available to pursue darknet-based crimes, particularly those involving fentanyl, opioids, and other dangerous drugs.”


Previously in 2018 an AlphaBay public relations specialist, Ronald L. Wheeler III was sentenced to three years for conspiracy to commit access device fraud, and Akron, Ohio resident Larry Harmon was charged with money laundering conspiracy, operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and conducting money transmission without a D.C. license for allegedly moving more than $300 million through AlphaBay.


According to the Department of Justice's latest statement, "the investigation into AlphaBay and its former administrators continues."



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