Bryan Connor Herrell, a Dark Web moderator who ran popular illegal marketplace AlphaBay, has been sentenced to 11 years behind bars. According to a statement from the Department of Justice, Herrell was found guilty of conspiring to run a racketeer-influenced organization.
The End of AlphaBay
Particularly, Herrell helped to settle disputes between parties on AlphaBay. He handled over 20,000 vendor disputes in his time working on the platform, while also acting as a “scam watcher” to prevent fraudulent activity. For his role, he got regular Bitcoin payments from AlphaBay’s creators.
He was eventually arrested and charged in June 2019, according to a court document with the Eastern District Court of California. Herrell eventually pled guilty in January, although the coronavirus pandemic pushed his sentencing back from the original date in May.
AlphaBay was one of the biggest Dark Web marketplaces when it operated. The site worked for almost three years, with over 400,000 customers making transactions and sales on its platform. The service was notorious for selling drugs, banned medications, ammunition and malware.
U.S and European authorities shut the platform down in July 2017. Alexandre Cazes, the website’s founder, was also arrested in Bangkok around that time. Cazes had been laying low with his wife in Bangkok for a bit, but was picked following boasted about purchasing a Porsche vehicle on an online forum, even adding video evidence of him driving the car.
Along with the video proof, investigators also set up a sting operation to purchase items on AlphaBay. A welcome email on the platform led to police discovering his personal email, and they were able to track him from there.
Law enforcement officials found documents showing how much he was worth at the time. He had about $8.8 million in digital assets across bank accounts and crypto exchange wallets, while his entire net worth was estimated at $23 million.
Shortly after he was arrested, however, Cazes was found dead in his cell. Per reports, he was found hanging from a towel on the ceiling of the cell.
Dark Web Marketplaces on High Alert
AlphaBay isn’t the only Dark Web marketplace to lose a top official. Silk Road, the largest marketplace on the platform when it was active, has dealt with the imprisonment of its founder, Ross Ulbricht, for years. Ulbricht was arrested in 2013 for creating the platform and was charged with seven crimes — including money laundering, drug trafficking, criminal enterprise, and aiding and abetting narcotics sales. He got two life sentences with n parole.
Things could get significantly worse for Dark Web operators as the government is getting increasingly adept at tracking cryptocurrency purchases on their platforms. Government agencies have filed for blockchain analysis tools and other equipment that can allow them to track asset movements and crack down on crime. Given the progress made in policing the Dark Web over the past year, it seems definite that the government will get even better going forward.