The U.S. Justice Department has formally indicted the purported owners and administrators of DeepDotWeb, who were arrested on charges of money laundering on Tuesday.
Tal Prihar, 37, and Michael Phan, 34 who are both Israeli citizens were charged in a one-count indictment for conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Prihar was residing in Brazil and was arrested by French law enforcement officers in Paris on Monday. Israeli authorities arrested Phan on Monday.
The two individuals are held responsible for making millions of dollars in commission from the popular news website DeepDotWeb that featured information and reviews regarding dark websites and marketplaces.
U.S prosecutors stated that the administrators of DeepDotWeb made money by linking to various marketplaces on the dark web which is merely reachable via Tor, an open-source encrypted network designed for enabling anonymous communication.
A large number of dark web marketplaces partook in illicit activities such as selling drugs,
As a result of the arrests, the FBI seized the websites belonging to DeepDotWeb.
“While there have been successful prosecutions of various Darknet marketplaces, this prosecution is the first to attack the infrastructure supporting the Darknet itself,” said Scott Brady, U.S. attorney for Western Philadelphia.
The indictment mentions that DeepDotWeb referred over 198,000 users to Hansa, another extinct market, whereby DeepDotWeb acquired a commission on all of those customers’ purchases.
The indictment refers to Prihar and Phan having made around 8,155 bitcoins in total whereby nearly half of which was accumulated from AlphaBay, a dark web marketplace that was taken down by law enforcement in 2017. As reported by the district attorney, more than 23 percent of every transaction made on AlphaBay were correlated with a referral link from Deep Dot Web.
“This is the single most significant law enforcement disruption of the Darknet to date,” said U.S. Attorney Brady.