When the federal agencies and Department of Justice in the U.S. swooped down on dark web markets like AlphaBay, few in the trade would have thought that investigators would be in a position to reach the individuals active on trading platforms.
But their hopes were dashed when the law enforcement authorities arrested six people directly or indirectly involved in selling prohibited drugs on the dark web.
And now, those six individuals will stand trial.
The whole saga of investigators constructing the case piece-by-piece and then connecting the dots to pin down these six dark web users from California makes for some interesting reading.
And many are following the story to find out what happens next.
The Servers Were Cracked to Obtain Data
A lot has already been written on the way the agencies shut down the two popular dark web markets AlphaBay and Silk Road.
They managed to take possession of some of the servers from these dark web sites.
The agencies also succeeded in decoding or un encrypting the data available on these servers.
The figures cited were quite staggering, to say the least.
When AlphaBay was shut down earlier this year, it was disclosed that there were 200,000 registered members dealing with hundreds of thousands of illegal items.
These included stolen identities and illicit drugs, among other prohibited items.
The Silk Road had lesser numbers, in the thousands. But nevertheless, the offenses they committed in the eyes of the law were indeed serious.
Hard Evidence Collected and Nexus Established
One of the most difficult tasks for any crime-busting team is to establish that a crime has even been committed, and then what is even more difficult is to directly connect the suspect or suspects to the crime.
In the absence of such an iron clad case, the defense attorneys will tear the prosecution apart.
The criminals, like with this present case, possess the resources to retain the best defense attorneys as well.
Knowing this, the investigators in this case first zeroed in on one William James Farber, and traced him to the AlphaBay account, HumboldtFarms.
They then laid the trap—first tracking the courier to know where the ordered drugs were being shipped from.
To confirm the involvement of Farber, they used GPS tracking to catch him red-handed in the warehouse he was using as a base for his illegal drug business.
Farber and HumboldtFarms appear to have been operating on the Silk Road as well.
This dark web site was closed down in 2013. On the Silk Road, the name of the business was PureFireMeds.
Money Laundering Charges
The Homeland Security investigators, along with local police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, found that Farber and his five accomplices were using the money earned through these illegitimate transactions on the dark web to deal in marijuana, which is legally permitted in the state of California.
They used a decoy account to order the drug themselves and used it to further track down the connections.
Bryan Anthony Lemons stands as the other co-accused along with Farber as the main culprits.
For assisting them, Richard Thomas Martinsen, Faysal Mustafa Alkhayat, Michael Angelo Palma and Michele Pickerell have also been taken into custody.
Reports indicate that the operation earned them financial gains in crypto currencies, mainly Bitcoin, which roughly convert to $7 million.
And they kept the details from the government, which amounts to a federal crime.
These accusations are in addition to the basic criminal activity of drug-peddling they indulged in.
What Comes Next?
If the prosecution is able to prove the case and the court agrees with the charges, the six arrested could be put in prison for 40 years.
They may also be asked to pay a fine to the state of $25 million.
These are the maximum punishments spelt out in the law, and it is to be seen how the case is conducted when it reaches the court.
The very arrest of these six persons should send the right kind of signals to people who are still using the dark web to trade in illegal material, whether it’s drugs, stolen goods, weapons or any other.
The long arm of the law will definitely reach them sooner rather than later.
It may also pave the way for more law enforcement crackdowns in the future.
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