Need heroin without risking a buy on the street?
Want a gun but can't pass a background check?
Looking for malware to launch a cyberattack?
Darknet middleman Tal Prihar used to be able to hook you up. Now, however, he's pleaded guilty in court and agreed to forfeit hundreds of millions worth of Bitcoin.
The DeepDotWeb marketing story
Prihar and a partner ran a website for six years called DeepDotWeb. The website provided insights about—and a gateway to—darknet marketplaces for those unaware of how to access the Dark Web.
When people went from DeepDotWeb to a darknet marketplace and made a purchase, Prihar made money. It's like the link affiliate services between various websites and bloggers who who write about them; except in this case, the purchases and profits violated U.S. law.
"Tal Prihar served as a broker for illegal Darknet marketplaces—helping such marketplaces find customers for fentanyl, firearms, and other dangerous contraband—and profited from the illegal business that ensued," says Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department's Criminal Division.
"This prosecution, seizure of the broker website, and forfeiture send a clear message that we are not only prosecuting the administrators of Darknet marketplaces offering illegal goods and services, but we will also bring to justice those that aim to facilitate and profit from them."
Prihar has agreed to forfeit 8,155 Bitcoins, which were worth $8,414,173 when the U.S. Department of Justice seized them in 2019. That Bitcoin today (March 31, 2021) is worth an astounding $484,305,062.
"Tal Prihar today acknowledged his leadership role in operating a web site that served as a gateway to numerous dark web marketplaces selling fentanyl, heroin, firearms, hacking tools and other illegal goods," said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
Prihar pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, admitting to opening shell corporations to move his profits around. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
Federal cybercrime investigations span the globe
One very interesting note to this case is its international nature. Check out this list of organizations that played a part:
"The [U.S.] department of justice thanks the French authorities as well as its law enforcement colleagues at the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, IRS, Brazilian Federal Police Cyber Division, Israeli National Police, Dutch National Police, Europol Darkweb Team, Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany, and National Crime Agency in the United Kingdom. Significant assistance was provided by the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs."
Over the last few years, we have noticed more global cooperation related to cybercrime, and it appears to be yielding results.