- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2017

International law enforcement authorities took credit Thursday for seizing and shuttering AlphaBay, a dark web marketplace where prosecutors said vendors sold approximately one billion dollars in illegal products ranging from firearms to fentanyl, the synthetic drug at the center of America’s opioid crisis.

A multinational operation involving representatives from the Justice Department and Europol, among others, culminated in the closing of AlphaBay, an underground website that contained more than 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and other contraband when it abruptly shuttered this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday.

AlphaBay went offline July 4, spurring more than two weeks of speculation surrounding its fate before Thursday’s announcement.

“This is the largest dark net marketplace takedown in history,” Mr. Sessions said.
Rob Wainwright, the executive director of Europol, hailed the operation as “an outstanding success by authorities in Europe and the U.S.”

“By acting together on a global basis the law enforcement community has sent a clear message that we have the means to identify criminality and strike back, even in areas of the Dark Web. There are more of these operations to come,” Mr. Wainwright.

AlphaBay, like similar sites before it, existed on the so-called dark web — a portion of the internet not indexed by search engines and accessible only with specialized software. Websites on the dark web are often hosted on “hidden services” designed to obfuscate the identities of its operator and visitors.

AlphaBay’s vendors had catered to at least 200,000 customers prior to the website’s disappearance this month, he aded. The Justice Department was aware of at least 122 vendors advertising fentanyl and 238 offering heroin on AlphaBay earlier this year, Mr. Sessions said, and have traced drugs sold on the website to the deaths of several Americans.

Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s acting director, called the effort a “landmark operation” and described AlphaBay as roughly 10 times the size of Silk Road, a similar, now-defunct website that facilitated illegal contraband sales before being seized in 2013. Its operator, Ross Ulbricht, was subsequently convicted of multiple related felonies and ordered to serve two life sentences.

“Make no mistake, the forces of law and justice face a new challenge from the criminals and transnational criminal organizations who think they can commit their crimes with impunity by ‘going dark.’ This case, pursued by dedicated agents and prosecutors, says you are not safe,” Mr. Sessions added. “You cannot hide. We will find you, dismantle your organization and network. And we will prosecute you.”

A warrant was issued last month for the arrest of Alexandre Cazes, a Canadian man accused of operating AlphaBay, according to court documents unsealed Thursday. Cazes was arrested in Thailand earlier this month and died several days later in a Bangkok jail cell while awaiting extradition to the U.S., previous reports indicated. Thai police said he likely hanged himself. The Justice Department said Thursday it’s filed a forfeiture complaint in a bid to assume control of Cazes’ assets, including real and digital funds implicated in the operation of AlphaBay.

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