The Department of Justice announced this week that they have seized AlphaBay, the largest-ever “deep web” criminal marketplace. Federal authorities worked with law enforcement agencies in Europe, Canada, the U.K., and Thailand to track down and arrest the individuals involved with running the illicit e-store, where users were able to anonymously purchase drugs, fraudulent identification documents, malware and hacking tools, firearms, chemicals, and other illegal contraband.
AlphaBay reportedly connected over 40,000 vendors to over 200,000 users, according to an anonymous staff member of the dark market. Before the site was taken down, there were over 250,000 listings offering illegal drugs and toxic chemicals for sale, in addition to another 100,000 listings for other assorted items. By contrast, the famous Silk Road marketplace, which was taken offline for good in 2013, had only 14,000 total listings for illicit goods and services at the time of its seizure.
On July 5th, Thai law enforcement arrested Alexandre Cazes, a Canadian citizen who allegedly created and administered AlphaBay. U.S. authorities charged Cazes with sixteen different counts of assorted crimes including conspiracy to engage in racketeering, money laundering, and conspiracy to distribute narcotics. On July 12th, Cazes reportedly committed suicide in a Thai prison. A week later, federal agents seized all of Cazes' and his wife's properties and assets.
AlphaBay was accessible via the Tor network, and users of the market used cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Monero, and Ethereum to conduct anonymous transactions. The criminal investigation revealed that many vendors were selling fentanyl and heroin, the two opioids most often credited for America’s latest rash of overdose deaths.
“AlphaBay was the world’s largest underground marketplace of the dark net, providing an avenue for criminals to conduct business anonymously and without repercussions,” Chief Don Fort of IRS-CI, the criminal enforcement arm of the IRS, said. “Working with our law enforcement partners – both domestically and abroad – IRS-CI used its unique financial and cyber expertise to help shine a bright light on the accounts and customers of this shadowy black marketplace, and we intend to continue pursuing these kinds of criminals no matter where they hide.”