Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed that they had seized and shut down AlphaBay, the biggest illegal drug marketplace in internet history.
Operating in the shadows of the “dark web,” AlphaBay hosted $1B in criminal transactions from 200k users and 40k vendors across the world — with a specialty in drugs and fake IDs.
A Canuck gone rogue
AlphaBay was founded in 2014 by Alexandre Cazes, a then-23-year-old Canadian living in Thailand, listed as a “software designer” on LinkedIn — quiet, shy, and high-achieving, giving off no pretension of shadiness.
Over 2 years, Cazes covertly built AB into a one-stop shop for black market goods, where users used Bitcoin and an untraceable browser to purchase $800k worth of heroin, firearms, and illicit chemicals every day.
But he got cocky…
U.S. authorities had been tracking AB for months, and they got lucky when Cazes left his email address — [email protected] — in the header of a welcome email he sent to new users.
On July 5, he was taken into custody in Thailand on counts including racketeering, narcotics, and money laundering. But before he could be extradited, he hung himself in his prison cell.
Since then, the DOJ has seized his $23m in assets, including $8.8m in cryptocurrency, half a dozen properties, and a $900k Lamborghini.
This. Is. Huge?
When the Silk Road marketplace was seized back in 2013, it had 14k illegal listings — the largest dark web operation of its kind at the time. AlphaBay had 225k listings — 16x that size.
Though law enforcement is boasting about its “record-setting” takedown, what this story really shows is that the dark web has gotten way more robust in recent years.
Maybe because it’s one of the few online markets Amazon can’t disrupt…