Darknet Moderator Jailed for 11 Years

An American who was employed to moderate disputes on an illegal darknet marketplace has been sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Bryan Connor Herrell, of Aurora, Colorado, was hired by AlphaBay to settle arguments between vendors and purchasers. 

The site operated by his employers facilitated hundreds of thousands of illicit transactions in which guns, drugs, credit cards numbers, and stolen identities were purchased along with other illegal contraband.

At the time of Herrell's involvement with AlphaBay, the site was the world's largest online marketplace for drugs.

Herrell was also hired to acted as a scam monitor, watching out for attempts by vendors to defraud AlphaBay's users. 

The 26-year-old worked for the illegal website under the names "Penissmith" and "Botah." In return for his efforts, he was paid in Bitcoin. 

Alexandre Cazes, the alleged founder of AlphaBay, was indicted by a Fresno grand jury on June 1, 2017. 

On July 5, 2017, the Royal Thai Police executed an arrest warrant for Canadian-born Cazes at his residence in Bangkok, in connection with his alleged involvement with AlphaBay.  The warrant was executed with assistance from the FBI and DEA. 

When Cazes was arrested, police found his laptop open and in an unencrypted state. A search of the laptop by law enforcement agents and officers revealed several text files that identified the passwords/passkeys for the AlphaBay website, the AlphaBay servers, and other online identities associated with AlphaBay.  

Cazes died in Thailand in the custody of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau just days after his arrest. The 26-year-old's death occurred an hour before he was due to meet with public prosecutors over proceedings relating to his extradition to the United States. 

The US indictment against Cazes was dismissed following his death; however, the Department of Justice's investigation of AlphaBay and its former administrators is ongoing.

“This sentence serves as further proof that criminals cannot hide behind technology to break the law,” said US Attorney McGregor Scott of the Eastern District of California.  

“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."

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