Business $ 1.6 million worth of bitcoin seized

$ 1.6 million worth of bitcoin seized

Key facts:
  • During the operation, 500 kg of drugs and USD 6.5 million in cash were seized.

  • Drug traffickers operated in Darknet markets, such as AlphaBay and WallStreet.

An international operation by various security agencies arrested a criminal drug trafficking network, where they managed to confiscate at least USD 1.6 million in bitcoin. The cooperation of Interpol and the US Joint Opioid & Darknet Criminal Enforcement (JCODE) were decisive to carry out the so-called Operation Disruptor.

The US Department of Justice released a document on September 21 describing the coordinated effort that international security agencies carried out for 9 months to dismantle the drug trafficking network that operated through the Darknet. . Multiple operations were executed in various countries.

The balance sheet of the Operation Disruptor, aided by cyberspace investigations that made it possible to trace and identify thousands of transactions throughout the United States and several countries in Europe, suggests that USD 6.5 million seized, of which 24.6% correspond to bitcoin. The rest of the value corresponding to approximately 500 kg of seized drugs, weapons, computers and other goods used for criminal purposes was not established.

Specifically, the JCODE team from Los Angeles seized USD 1.6 million in bitcoin from a criminal group called Stealthgod, linked to more than 18,000 sales in 35 states and several countries. The operation was carried out in February 2020, with the participation of the FBI. Those involved face charges of drug trafficking, money laundering, conspiracy and could face sentences of between 10 and 25 years in prison.

The Operation Disruptor It resulted in the arrest of 179 people in 7 countries, including 121 the United States, 42 in Germany, 8 in the Netherlands, 4 in the United Kingdom, 3 Austria, 2 in Canada, and 1 Sweden.

Criminals used Darknet markets such as AlphaBay, Dream, WallStreet, Nightmare, Empire, White House, DeepSea, Dark Market and others, to sell illicit substances such as fentanyl, MDMA, heroin, cocaine, Alprazolam, OxyContin and others.

The largest operation took place in the city of Los Angeles in February 2020, where USD 22,000 in cash was seized. Source: FBI / fbi.gov

During the course of the raid, the FBI’s High Tech Opioids Task Force also “successfully thwarted a plan of firebombing [en Nebraska] which involved explosives, firearms, the Darknet, prescription opioid trafficking, cryptocurrencies and sophisticated money laundering, ”according to the document.

In another event related to this drug trafficking network, a 39-year-old man residing in Corsicana, Texas, was charged with possessing and distributing controlled substances. “He allegedly accepted the payment in cryptocurrencies, mainly bitcoin, and then sent the drugs to customers’ addresses via US mail,” the document states.

The Darknet and drug trafficking with bitcoin and cryptocurrencies

Christopher Hicks, an agent with the Homeland Security Investigation group who supported JCODE in Los Angeles, commented that the Darknet does not represent a completely safe place for shoppers, since at some point, merchandise definitely reaches someone’s hands and that can be traced.

Even if bitcoin is used to try and cover up trading, Hicks sees exposure points. «People think that cryptocurrency is this anonymous platform, but there are things we can exploit to find out who people are. Not really anonymous“, said.

On August 22, the largest market on the Darknet, known as Empire Market, disappeared, blocking its users’ access to more than 2,600 BTC. The 129,000 subscribers of this platform had access to an offer of more than 26,000 drugs and chemicals, false passports or the sale of personal information, which could be acquired by paying with bitcoin or monero.

The debate about the level of privacy that transactions with bitcoin, monero or zcash could provide continues. Although some studies suggest that bitcoin does not natively offer anonymous transactions, this idea seems to have gained ground among Darknet users.

In fact, the 20% increase in the use of bitcoin mixers and Monero transactions support this trend.

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