PITTSBURGH (AP) — A gateway to illegal marketplaces on the darknet has been shut down, the FBI announced Wednesday, and two of its alleged operators have been arrested and accused of making millions of dollars in kickbacks for their services.
A grand jury in Pittsburgh returned indictments against the two Israelis on charges of money laundering conspiracy. They’re accused of receiving more than $15 million from the operation, which ran from Oct. 2013 through this week, prosecutors said.
Both were arrested Monday, one in France and the other in Israel.
The website was identified as DeepDotWeb, accessible under a slightly different name on the darknet, part of the internet but hosted within an encrypted network and accessible only with anonymity-providing tools.
DeepDotWeb provided users with access to marketplaces where vendors sold everything from illegal narcotics such as fentanyl, heroin and crystal methamphetamine; to assault rifles, malicious software, hacking tools and stolen financial information.
U.S. Attorney Scott Brady called DeepDotWeb “a one-stop information center for people who were trying to access the dark web.”
Many major cybercrime investigations have taken place in Pittsburgh because they have some of the most experienced cybercrime investigators in the U.S. The FBI has two cybercrime units in the city.
The website also provided reviews of marketplaces on the dark web, as well as tutorials on how to use it, he said.
DeepDotWeb got kickbacks from purchases made from the websites where it referred customers, prosecutors said.
Darknet marketplaces operate on the “Tor” network, a computer network designed to facilitate anonymous communication over the internet. Because of Tor’s structure, a user who wanted to visit a particular Darknet marketplace needed to know the site’s exact address. DeepDotWeb simplified this process by including pages of hyperlinks to various Darknet marketplaces addresses.
To conceal the source of the illegal proceeds, the two transferred the kickback payments from their DeepDotWeb bitcoin wallet to other bitcoin accounts and to bank accounts they controlled in the names of shell companies, prosecutors said.