The Department of Justice and its international partners announced Thursday a takedown of a massive Dark Web marketplace that was allegedly one of the world’s biggest sources for the sale of drugs and illicit materials, striking a blow to the cybercriminal underground.
In shutting down AlphaBay and arresting its alleged founder, Alexandre Cazes, the Justice Department also is going after the assets of Cazes, who is charged with running the sophisticated anonymous market and was worth upwards of $23 million, according to court documents. Cazes apparently took his life on July 12 while in custody in Thailand after authorities arrested him there a week prior, the DOJ said.
The operation was organized with international law enforcement to coincide with the takeover and then takedown of another major Dark Web operation, the Hansa Market — adding up to a substantial blow to criminals’ means of selling and buying illicit materials anonymously online.
Officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Europol Executive Director Robert Mark Wainwright, heralded the action Thursday morning as a message to criminals everywhere.
“This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of this entire year,” Sessions said. “Make no mistake, the forces of law and justice face a challenge from criminal and transnational criminal organizations who think they can commit their crime with impunity by going dark. This case … says, ‘You are not safe, you cannot hide. We will find you, dismantle your organization and network and we will prosecute you.'”
According to the McCabe, AlphaBay was 10 times the size of Silk Road, a previous massive Dark Web marketplace that DOJ busted in 2013. AlphaWeb operated much like any legitimate e-commerce site, including having a public relations manager, security administrator and “scam watchers,” according to court documents.