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SirWin
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SirWin

FBI traces crypto transfers to dismantle $100m dark web marketplace

fbi-traces-crypto-transfers-to-dismantle-100m-dark-web-marketplace
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FBI traces crypto transfers to dismantle $100m dark web marketplace

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has arrested a dark web narcotics marketplace owner after tracking illicit crypto transfers.

Rui-Siang Lin, a 23-year-old Taiwan resident, was found guilty of operating a $100 million dark web narcotics marketplace. 

Known online as “Pharoah,” Lin was arrested on May 18 at the John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. He operated the ‘Incognito Market’ for approximately four years and reaped “millions of dollars in personal profits,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge James Smith said in the official statement.

The illicit platform, one of the largest platforms of its kind, was an onion-based e-commerce platform accessible via the Tor web browser. The browser allows users to access the dark web and browse the internet anonymously by routing their traffic through a network of servers.

The platform was powered by cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Monero, allowing users to buy various drugs like LSD, MDMA, and prescription amphetamines like Adderall.

The arrest was possible mainly due to the marketplace urging its users to use cryptocurrencies by offering discounts and escrow services.

With the help of other law enforcement agencies and several undercover operations, the FBI was able to trace the transactions made on the platform to Lin. The transactions were made to an unnamed centralized crypto exchange account KYC’d by Lin.

At least four of the Bitcoin transfers traced by the authorities from Lin’s wallet were directed towards a “swapping service” to convert it to XMR, a privacy-focused cryptocurrency. The XMR was then deposited to a crypto exchange account run by Lin.

The FBI was able to secure Lin’s driving license, an email account, and a phone number from the exchange, resulting in his arrest. The account grew from holding $63,000 in 2021 to nearly $4.2 million by 2023. Another unnamed exchange account linked to the case saw $4.5 million deposited between July and November 2023.

The phone number was linked to a Namecheap account, a domain hosting platform. Funds from Lin’s wallet were used to purchase a domain that promoted the dark web marketplace.

Lin also held accounts at crypto exchanges Binance and Kraken, which have now been seized by the FBI.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the marketplace was shut down in March 2024. 

Lin has been charged with one count of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison. He also faces one count of narcotics conspiracy, with a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum potential sentence of life in prison.

Additionally, Lin is charged with money laundering and faces a conspiracy charge to sell adulterated and misbranded medication, with a maximum sentence of five years.
Earlier this month, the FBI also uncovered a $43 million Ponzi scheme promoted as a crypto investment scheme offering huge returns.