US Dark Web Raids Lead to Arrests and Seizures

Written by

The US authorities are claiming victory after a nationwide dark web clampdown which led to multiple arrests and seizure of illegal goods.

The year-long operation involved the Department of Justice, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the US Secret Service (USSS), the US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Posing as money launderers on dark web markets, special agents of the HSI New York Field Division were able to gain the trust of numerous vendors by offering to exchange US currency obtained in illegal deals for virtual currency.

The investigation into more than 65 targets led to the arrest of more than 35 dark web vendors said to have made tens of thousands of sales.

The four-week culmination of the operation saw 100 law enforcement actions across the US, resulting in the seizure of 333 bottles of liquid synthetic opioids, over 100,000 tramadol pills, 100 grams of fentanyl, more than 24 kilograms of Xanax, and various other recreational and prescription drugs.

Also seized were more than 100 firearms; five vehicles either bought with illegal funds or used in criminal activity; more than $3.6m in currency and gold bars, nearly 2000 Bitcoins and other crypto-currency worth over $20m, 15 pill presses and Bitcoin mining equipment.

The authorities were understandably tight-lipped on exactly how the busts worked, but they did claim that those dark web vendor accounts identified and linked to real individuals were selling goods on sites including Silk Road, AlphaBay, Hansa, and Dream.

All of these have previously been taken down by law enforcers except for Dream Market, which is said to have been infiltrated by Dutch police.    

“The darknet is ever-changing and increasingly more intricate, making locating and targeting those selling illicit items on this platform more complicated. But in this case, HSI special agents were able to walk amongst those in the cyber underworld to find those vendors who sell highly addictive drugs for a profit,” said HSI acting executive associate director Benner. 

Danny Rogers, co-founder and CEO of dark web intelligence firm Terbium Labs, claimed law enforcement “seems to have the upper hand” at the moment regarding certain underground forums, but claimed this crackdown doesn’t tell the whole story.

“It should be emphasized that there is no single dark web,” he told Infosecurity.

“Much of the law enforcement and media focus is around the drug marketplaces, but there are dozens upon dozens of other marketplaces focused on fraud and stolen digital commodities like identities and payment cards, and those markets have been unaffected by the recent law enforcement actions. In fact, they are thriving more than ever.”

What’s hot on Infosecurity Magazine?