AlphaBay, now a defunct darknet market, has once again surfaced to make the news.
Ronald L. Wheeler III from Illinois has been indicted for conspiracy to commit access device fraud by an Atlanta federal court.
If Wheeler is convicted, he will have to forfeit all of the money that he has received in the course of illegal activities conducted during the period he was a PR specialist working for the AlphaBay dark web site.
According to the court filings, Wheeler has received more than $27,000 US dollars and around 14 Bitcoins, which amounts roughly to $108,000.
The AlphaBay dark web site had been closed in July of this year.
The present hearing comes months later. AlphaBay was supposed to be one of the largest sites on the darknet, eventually made infamous for trading in firearms and other illicit drugs.
Replacing Silk Road
At the time when the site was closed, the federal officials had also charged Alexandre Cazes known by the pseudonym Alpha02, for various drug trafficking activities. He had setup the site in September 2014.
This was set up after the closure of another darknet marketplace going by the name of Silk Road. He was able to make AlphaBay a substitute for the closed Silk Road, and was therefore able to get thousands of users for his site in a very short span of time.
The DEA, along with the assistance of the FBI, had arrested Alexandre Cazes on July 5th. Later, Cazes died on July 12th while in the custody of Thai police.
It was reported that Cazes had hanged himself while he was in the jail prior to a court hearing.
In addition to the indictment of Ronald L. Wheeler III, there are also other prosecutions being carried out against several other suspects involved in the AlphaBay scam.
Wheeler has pled that he is not guilty of the recent charge and has been released on bond.
The magistrate, Janet King, has allowed him to be released, but the case is still pending. She also stated that a drug testing procedure will be necessary. Phillip Turner, the PR specialist’s lawyer, did not make any further comments once the hearing was completed.
Wheeler is said to have gone under the pseudonyms of Trappy as well as Trappy_Pandora. He was supposed to have been the PR specialist for the darknet market AlphaBay from May 2015 onwards.
As a PR specialist, his job entailed resolving sales problems and promoting the site in the dark web and on reddit. Wheeler was responsible for moderating the darknet website forums on Reddit and would also post information about the darknet market in other reddit forums.
He offered non-technical help to users of the darknet site as well. For his services, Wheeler received payment, supposedly from Alexandre Cazes, in the form of bitcoins.
AlphaBay was operating on the Tor platform, a network consisting of several thousand computers that are supported by volunteers. In this way, AlphaBay was able to hide its criminal tracks in the darknet.
When a site is hosted on Tor, the traffic moves in the form of a relay using several computers. Due to this, the information related to identification is removed at each relay in en route to the final destination, effectively making it impossible to have the complete chain to identify the source.
Wheeler has been accused of working in combination with Alexandre Cazes and several others.
They have used the AlphaBay site for receiving personal information, such as passwords, email addresses and the associated bank account details, and selling them. They were using this sensitive information in exchange for money and services.
According to estimates made by Europol, AlphaBay had already done a business to the tune of $1 billion after it started business in 2014, when it was created.
According to the Europol estimates, Cazes had made more than $23 million; he was the mastermind behind the site as well as the administrator, as per the court documents related to the case.
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