DeepDotWeb shut down: administrators suspected of receiving millions of kickbacks from illegal dark web proceeds

08 May 2019
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The two suspected administrators of a website known as DeepDotWeb have been arrested on 6 May 2019 in Paris, France and Israel. Authorities in the US have charged the two individuals after an internationally coordinated operation today, supported by Europol. At the same time, the DeepDotWeb website was seized by law enforcement and judicial authorities.

The two suspects, both Israeli citizens, have been charged by a US federal jury with money laundering conspiracy, relating to millions of dollars in kickbacks they received for purchases of fentanyl, heroin and other illegal goods, by individuals referred to dark web marketplaces by DeepDotWeb. The two suspects had allegedly owned and operated DeepDotWeb since 2013. The website provided users with direct access to numerous online dark web marketplaces, where vendors sold illegal drugs, firearms, malicious software and hacking tools, stolen financial information and payment cards and other illegal counterfeit goods. It is estimated that the website referred hundreds of thousands of users to dark web marketplaces.

The two men are suspected of receiving kickback payments, representing a portion of the proceeds from each purchase of illegal goods made on a dark web marketplace linked to the DeepDotWeb site. The payments were made in virtual currency and paid into a bitcoin wallet controlled by DeepDotWeb. To conceal the illegal proceeds, they transferred the money to other bitcoin accounts and to bank accounts they controlled in the name of shell companies. In total, more than 8 150 bitcoins in kickback payments were received. Due to bitcoin’s fluctuating exchange rate, the value of the DeepDotWeb bitcoin wallet amounted to approximately €7,5 million, when adjusted for the trading value of bitcoin at the time of each transaction.

This case was led by the US Department of Justice and was brought in conjunction with the Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) Team within the FBI’s Hi-Tech Organized Crime Unit.

Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (Dark Web Team) provided operational support to the investigation, as did law enforcement in France, Germany (German Federal Criminal Police Office, Polizeidirektion Zwickau and Saxon Police), the Netherlands (Dutch National Police), the United Kingdom (National Crime Agency), Brazil (Federal Police Cyber Division) and Israel (Israeli National Police). Only a few days after the announcement of the takedown of two prolific dark web markets (Wall Street Market and Valhalla), this is yet another law enforcement success in the fight against the sale of illegal goods on the dark web.