Authorities Arrest $100m Incognito Drugs Market Suspect

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A Taiwanese national is facing multiple life sentences after being arrested on suspicion of owning and running one of the dark web’s most successful drugs marketplaces.

Rui-Siang Lin (aka Ruisiang Lin, 林睿庠, Pharoah and faro) was arrested at JFK airport in New York on Saturday. The 23-year-old is accused of operating the Incognito Market, which since its inception in 2020 has apparently sold an estimated $100m of illicit drugs and misbranded prescription medication to customers around the world.

The site itself borrowed heavily from legitimate e-commerce stores, in terms of branding, advertising and customer service, according to the Department of Justice (DoJ).

Once signed up to the site, drug dealers allegedly paid Lin 5% of the purchase price of any drug sold, which was used to fund hosting, employee salaries and other operational expenses.

The site also ran its own bank, the DoJ said. Users would deposit cryptocurrency into their own named accounts and the site would withdraw purchase amounts minus the 5% transaction fee and transfer to seller accounts, enabling both parties to remain anonymous.

Read more on drugs marketplaces: Finnish Authorities Shutter Dark Web Drugs Marketplace

Lin is accused of making millions from such transactions, and of keeping a close eye on operations at all times.

As well as hundreds of kilograms of cocaine and methamphetamines, drug dealers also used the site to pass off potentially deadly fentanyl pills as prescription medication oxycodone, the DoJ claimed.

“As alleged, Rui-Siang Lin’s brazen operation resulted in the illicit sale of over $100m in narcotics, including those that were mislabelled and later found to include deadly fentanyl,” said special agent in charge, Ivan Arvelo of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York.

“The defendant’s greed and disregard for others was further demonstrated by his alleged extortion attempt during the platform’s final days. The El Dorado Task Force’s Darkweb and Cryptocurrency Task Force leverages cutting-edge techniques to target even the internet’s most savvy criminals.”

Two Life Sentences

Lin now faces mandatory minimum penalties of life in prison for engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise and narcotics conspiracy. He faces a further maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for money laundering, and a maximum penalty of five years for conspiracy to sell adulterated and misbranded medication.

The arrest follows success for German police in dismantling Crimemarket – one of the country’s most popular underground markets for drugs, weapons and illicit services such as money laundering and cybercrime.

According to Chainalysis, administrators and sellers on dark web marketplaces had a better 2023 than the previous year, making an estimated $1.7bn in cryptocurrency-based revenues.

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