More than 35 people have been arrested by federal U.S. authorities as part of a sting operation targeting darknet vendors.
The year-long operation included the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. Secret Service (USSS), ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), among other agencies.
Agents posed as a money launderer on darknet market sites, offering to exchange U.S. currency for cryptocurrency. From there, HSI identified sellers of illicit goods, which led to more than 90 cases being opened around the country, with subsequent arrests made.
As well as the arrests, federal authorities seized weapons (including a grenade launcher), drugs, and $3.6 million in U.S. currency and gold bars, as well as nearly 2,000 Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies totalling approximately $20 million.
Authorities also confiscated Bitcoin mining devices, computer equipment, vacuum sealers, as well as 15 pill presses.
“The Darknet is ever-changing and increasingly more intricate, making locating and targeting those selling illicit items on this platform more complicated,” HSI acting executive associate director Derek Benner said in a statement.
“But in this case, HSI special agents were able to walk amongst those in the cyber underworld to find those vendors who sell highly addictive drugs for a profit.”
Authorities said they were able to discover the real identities of people with vendor accounts on Silk Road, AlphaBay, Hansa, Dream, among others. Despite the technology, you can bet law enforcement agencies are finding ways to unearth identities on the dark web.