AlphaBay Moderator: A man who served as the moderator for the now-defunct dark web marketplace AlphaBay has pleaded guilty to charges against him in a U.S court. According to a statement released by U.S Attorney McGregor Scott, the culprit, 25-year-old Bryan Connor Herrell, of Colorado, pleaded guilty to conspiring to engage in a racketeer-influenced corrupt organization, AlphaBay.

Herrell, before the shutdown of dark web marketplace AlphaBay by Law enforcement in 2017, worked as the moderator for the site where he was paid in cryptocurrencies and saw to many issues of the dark web site. The Colorado native now faces up to 20 years in federal prison as he is scheduled for sentencing on May 18, 2020, in the Fresno federal court.

Moderator

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Herrell, working then as a moderator for AlphaBay, was responsible for settling disputes between the thousands of sellers and buyers on the dark web marketplace. He stated that he made sure disputes involving gun sales, credit card numbers, drug sales, stolen identity information, and other illegal situations were resolved amicably without escalating into something bigger.

The 25-year-old worked under the dark web monikers “Penissmith” and Botah,” and reportedly settled over 20,000 disputes before the dark web marketplace was taken down. Herrell, according to the Department of Justice, also served as ‘Scam watcher’ for the dark web marketplace. Aside from being the moderator, Herrell reportedly ran a service that monitored any attempt to defraud or engage in any fraudulent activity with the customers of AlphaBay.

AlphaBay, before it was shut down by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was arguably the largest dark web marketplace, facilitating many illegal activities including drugs, illegal weapons, computer hacking tools, counterfeit currencies, malware packages, access devices, stolen identities and other more. The dark web site had over 250,000listings alone for illicit drugs and other dangerous chemicals as well as over 100,000 listings for other illegal items.

The department of Justice reported that the dark web marketplace was engaged in over hundreds of thousands of transactions a day from across the globe, a rate which was ten times higher than that of Silk Road, another notorious dark web marketplace. AlphaBay reportedly saw over $1 billion worth of transactions on the dark web since its debut back in 2014.

AlphaBay was shut down on July 13, 2017, by the FBI with other law enforcement agencies in the United States, Thailand, and Canada, following a coordinated effort between the FBI and DEA, dubbed “Bayonet.” Many servers were seized by the police in Netherlands and Canada as well as over millions of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrencies. Officers of the FBI identified the creator of the dark web marketplace, Alexandre Cazes, through a sequence of operational security blunders which included using the personal email address of the admin of AlphaBay to deliver welcome messages to new members of the site.

Alexandre Cazes, a Canadian national, was identified as the founder of the dark web marketplace and was arrested at his residence in Bangkok, Thailand by the Royal Thai police after collaborating with the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI. A laptop was seized during his arrest which wasn’t encrypted and contained several pieces of evidence including servers of the dark web site, texts which were later identified as the passwords for the site and other identities created to run the dark web marketplace.

Cazes reportedly made over $23 million in cryptocurrency from the dark web marketplace and also physical cash save din numerous ban accounts across Saint Vincent, Switzerland, Thailand, Liechtenstein, and other countries. The Royal Thai Police also seized luxurious cars and real estate valued at over $12 million from the Canadian and his in-laws in Thailand. He was subsequently indicted by a federal grand jury in Fresno after his arrest and was held in a Bangkok jail waiting for extradition to the U.S. On July 12, 2019, Cazes, was found dead in his jail cell, bringing an end to the indictment against him. Investigations are still ongoing and other administrators of the dark web marketplace will be prosecuted and sentenced.

Moderator

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Many other arrests have since been made after the dark web marketplace was taken down. A popular fentanyl seller on the dark web site was arrested and sentenced to seven years in prison last year. Matthew Witters, a dark web drug lord sold fentanyl on AlphaBay and Dream Market between 2015 and 2017 and was caught after his contact information and dark web moniker was linked to a dark web drug trafficking network in California.

Witters, a Seattle native, reportedly sold over thousands of doses of fentanyl on the dark web, making him very famous amongst buyers. A search warrant executed on one of the safe-deposit boxes he had leased in a bank uncovered mailing labels, other controlled substances, a Glock handgun and over $165,000 in cash. The Police also seized more than $1.1 million in cryptocurrency, physical cash, and other ventures, all criminal proceeds of his dark web fentanyl dealing.

Source: NY Times


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