In July 2017, government agents brought down the Alphabay marketplace, at that point one of the largest and most profitable hotspots for drugs on the dark web. At the time, it appeared to be a muddled end to the string of dark web takedowns that began with the Silk Road. Be that as it may, over eighteen months after the takedown, government agents are still making captures in Alphabay cases, chasing down merchants who sold drugs through the site.
The latest case found some conclusion this past week, when Canadian national Christopher Bantli pled blameworthy to selling fentanyl and other narcotic analogues through Alphabay under the name “canadasunshine.” Bantli sold to a string of undercover DEA agents throughout 2015 and 2016, and was arraigned under seal as early as September 2016. Be that as it may, he wasn’t captured until January 2019, when federal agents were able to extradite him to the US for the ongoing plea. It’s unclear how feds found Bantli or whether they used data seized in the Alphabay takedown to do as such.
Those cases are growing more common in all cases. Indeed, even before the takedown, drug enforcement agents could bring down individual vendors through targeted purchases. That technique that just grew increasingly powerful as the sketchier bitcoin exchanges got shut down and organizations could prop up fake money-laundering operations in their place, producing considerably more leads.
At this point, the playbook for bringing down dark web drug dealers is truly established. A money-laundering sting in June implicated in 35 different vendors, yet smaller cases have trickled in at a regular clip. A month after Alphabay was brought down, an alleged cocaine vendor was captured in the central valley of California. After ten days, six more were prosecuted in a similar region. Two Brooklyn-based heroin dealers were condemned that January. In March, a Stockton man was sentenced to eight years for purchasing unlicensed guns through the market. The vendor arrests have continued on and on, long after the business sectors themselves have shut everything down.
At the point when the Silk Road originally went onto the scene, it appeared as though law enforcement had been outsmarted. The combination of Tor and Bitcoin appeared to be a safe, untraceable approach to purchase unlawful products. Notwithstanding when feds brought one site down, more would spring up in its place. Taking a look at all the illegal business being done every day, the business sectors appeared to be relentless.
In any case, after an apparently unending stream of vendor arrests, that model is less convincing. Rather than a new paradigm, dark web marketplaces presently look increasingly like a brief window where marketplace technology outpaced law enforcement’s ability to track it. However, now law enforcement has caught up — and making a decision by the rate of indictments, they’re compensating for lost time.