Tal Prihar, the owner and operator of DeepDotWeb, a website connecting internet users with the dark web marketplaces, has pleaded guilty in a U.S. court for his role in facilitating the sale of illegal firearms, malware and hacking tools, stolen financial data, heroin, and fentanyl via dark web marketplaces.
Prihar, along with his accomplice Michael Phan, facilitated the sale of illegal drugs, firearms, malicious software, hacking tools, stolen financial information, payment cards, and other illegal counterfeit goods on a number of Dark Web marketplaces. The criminals reportedly serviced hundreds of thousands of customers who were looking to purchase such goods discreetly.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Prihar, an Israeli citizen residing in Brazil, owned and operated DeepDotWeb along with Phan since October 2013. Aside from providing general information about the Darknet, DeepDotWeb provided buyers with direct links to illegal Darknet marketplaces which can’t be accessed through traditional search engines.
Once customers referred by the two criminals made purchases on Dark Web marketplaces, the latter received a portion of the proceeds from each purchase and these payments were received by them via a bitcoin wallet controlled by DeepDotWeb. In order to avoid detection, they routed the money through a large number of bank accounts that were created in the name of shell companies.
According to Europol, the duo received more than 8,155 bitcoins in kickback payments that amounted to approximately €7.5 million (£6.5 million) when adjusted for the trading value of bitcoin at the time of each transaction. Prihar transferred the payments from his DeepDOtWeb bitcoin wallet to other bitcoin accounts and several other bank accounts he controlled in the names of shell companies. After DDW was seized by federal authorities in April 2019, Prihar agreed to forfeit £6,083,236. Both of them were arrested by law enforcement authorities in France and Israel in May 2019.
“Tal Prihar served as a broker for illegal Darknet marketplaces — helping such marketplaces find customers for fentanyl, firearms, and other dangerous contraband — and profited from the illegal business that ensued. This prosecution, seizure of the broker website, and forfeiture send a clear message that we are not only prosecuting the administrators of Darknet marketplaces offering illegal goods and services, but we will also bring to justice those that aim to facilitate and profit from them,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“Tal Prihar today acknowledged his leadership role in operating a web site that served as a gateway to numerous dark web marketplaces selling fentanyl, heroin, firearms, hacking tools and other illegal goods,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman for the Western District of Pennsylvania. “Mr. Prihar and his codefendant extracted a fee from each customer routed to these illegal sites, profiting in the millions of dollars.”
Prihar pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and is scheduled to be sentenced on August 02. As per the federal district court, he can face a prison time of up to 20 years.
The takedown of DeepDotWeb was among a number of high-profile successes achieved by law enforcement authorities against cyber crime rings that operated across national boundaries. Paul Prudhomme, Cyber Threat Intelligence Advisor at IntSights, said that dark web marketplaces serve as key enablers for cyber criminals and provide these criminals with places to buy and sell malware, malicious infrastructure, and compromised data, accounts, and devices.
Earlier this year, DarkMarket, the world's largest illegal marketplace on the dark web, was taken down as a result of coordinated action by law enforcement authorities from the UK, the United States, Germany, Australia, Denmark, Moldova, and Ukraine.
Before it was taken down, DarkMarket was arguably the world's largest Dark Web marketplace, boasting around half a million users, including more than 2,400 sellers and enabling the illegal trade of drugs, counterfeit money, stolen or counterfeit credit card details, anonymous SIM cards, and malware.
Transactions on DarkMarket, like in all other Dark Web marketplaces, involved the use of various cryptocurrencies that afford a high level of anonymity to their users. According to Europol, DarkMarket facilitated the transfer of more than 4,650 Bitcoin and 12,800 Monero.
At their present value, the total amount of money used for the sale and purchase of drugs, stolen credit cards, malware, and anonymous SIM cards on DarkMarket amounts to more than £117.5 million in Bitcoin transfers and a little over £1.5 million in Monero transfers.