A hot potato: US agencies teamed up to seize tens of millions of dollars in assets from dark web sellers of illicit goods. Although the dark web has much secrecy surrounding it, law enforcement wants to show that no place is off limits when large-scale crime is happening.
An investigation spanning over a year by several US agencies has led to the arrest of more than 35 individuals involved in dark web activities. Money laundering, drug and weapons trafficking and the sale of other illicit materials totaled $23.6 million in illegally generated revenue for those caught.
Participants of the large operation include the Department of Justice, Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Secret Service, US Postal Inspection Service, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. HSI New York opened more than 90 cases after agents exchanged US currency for virtual currencies.
At the peak of the operation, 65 individuals were being targeted. Besides money laundering, another major reason for the task force was to go after fentanyl sellers. Synthetic opioids are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths annually.
Over 100 firearms were seized during raids include one grenade launcher. Five vehicles, 333 bottles of liquid synthetic opioids, more than 100,000 Tramadol pills, 24 kilograms of Xanax, 100 grams of fentanyl, 2,000 bitcoins, Bitcoin mining hardware and computer equipment were all collected. A small collection of LSD, MDMA and other more common drugs were also seized.
Some of the individuals indicted were involved in notorious dark web operations such as Silk Road and its replacement, AlphaBay.
Despite the clear victory for US agencies, dark web operators will not stop their pursuit of ill-gotten gains just because a few people were caught. It is still a massive undertaking to discover who is behind the underground world of illicit activities. This raid is merely a message to dark web sellers to show what is possible.