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How Do Cops Take Down Crypto-Criminals? Here’s How

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The criminal lords inhibiting in different lawless corners of the internet have boasted and operated freely in various activities. These lawless activities include money laundering, fraud, drug dealing, and human trafficking. However, “Tracers In The Dark” has shown the light how the cops and other investigative agents can trace down these illegal activities.

Andy Greenberg, a veteran cybersecurity reporter and a writer of “Tracers in The Dark,” takes us down the lane at what he calls Bitcoin’s Siren song: the promise of untraceable money. Greenberg narrates an astonishing saga of criminal empires that were built and destroyed.

In 2014, an IRS with a defiant streak, Tigran Gambaryan, was investigating a suspected DEA agent alleged to have stolen Bitcoin from Dead Pirate Roberts. Roberts was a pseudonymous founder and administrator of Silk Road, the world’s first darknet marketplace. Silk Road was a website where users could purchase and sell bitcoin and drugs while hiding their identities with an encryption technology known as Tor.

During those times, most individuals who used bitcoin believed it to be pseudonymous. That is an untraceable payment method, similar to using unmarked cash bills. In part 1 of the book, Gambaryan found evidence that the corrupt DEA agent stole millions of bitcoins from the dark web bazaar. In this wow moment, the IRS agent remembered shouting,” ooh shit, We broke Bitcoin.” This part of the book is keenly spent setting the stage and giving details on the technology behind Bitcoin. It also stipulated how the technology was used to enhance online drug trafficking.

Dark web Criminal Takedown

However, part 2 of the book takes us through a series of stories featuring law enforcement agents from California to Bangkok. The agents go after the dark web drug tycoon on the blockchain, the web, and in real life. The book’s memorable story is the step-by-step takedown of AlphaBay. AlphaBay was the leading dark web market in those times history. The book narrates from the beginning when an individual reached out to a DEA agent in Fresno, California, to give out some details on the identity of the AlphaBay admin.

At the end, the book spills out how the agents could lure Alexandre Cazes out of his apartment and arrest him. The Thai and American agents also managed to seize his computer, open and unlocked. This was core because if the computer had been encrypted or locked, they wouldn’t have obtained the needed evidence.

Like Silk Road, AlphaBay was hosted on the dark web and enhanced the sale and purchase of illegal goods, including drugs and hacking tools. The investigation into AlphaBay brought together around 20 agents from different departments, including the FBI, DOJ, DEA, IRS, and DHS. They both travelled to Bangkok to put Cazes behind bars.

However, to their surprise, some agents were hanging out in the lounge of a five-star hotel when the drug kingpin parked his Porsche and walked right past them. Can this be described as lack of information about who Cazes was? Or they had no enough evidence to arrest him? Anyway, these are just questions ringing in my mind as to why they wouldn’t arrest him, yet he was right in front of them. One of the agents remembers saying,” it was like seeing a ghost,” as some of his colleagues panicked.

Nonetheless, a few days later, the Thai police, under the supervision of the feds, arrested Cazes on July 5. One of the agents, Phirippidis, reportedly narrated how they arrested him. After crashing the car at Caze’s front gate, he asserted that the agents played dump, acting like they screwed up a three-point turn. Cazes came downstairs, where the police took his phone and arrested him.” A week later, Cazes was found deceased in his cell at the Thai Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) in the Laksi district of Bangkok. According to reports, Cazes was found in the bathroom of his prison hanging from a towel.

The hope for an end to crypto-criminals

However, Greenberg managed to interview a couple of law enforcement agents who assisted him in telling the story of this high-profile investigation from the inside. It is a valid, detailed, behind-the-scenes look at high-stakes police operations. They include the AlphaBay shutdown and the probe into the world’s leading child sexual abuse website, Welcome to Video, as reported by NBC news. Another dark web takedown, known as Hansa, was briefly run by the Dutch police in an unmatched sting operation.

The Hansa takedown led to several arrests worldwide. It spooked the entire dark web illegal markets space, indicating that cops could run even the significant markets.

It is worth noting that Tracers In The Dark tries to trick the reader into believing that Bitcoin isn’t anonymous. Noteworthy, the law enforcement probe takes time. It turned out that the individual who cold-emailed the DEA agent in Fresno about the identity of AlphaBay’s administrator had the right man. Previously, I asked why the agents couldn’t arrest Caze, yet he passed right through them. This is because the investigators had to pull all the necessary information, including fingerprints left on the internet and the blockchain, before arresting Caze.

In conclusion, Tracers In The Dark illustrates hope in stopping dark web market tycoons, drug dealers, and child abuse. This can come to pass, given the complete number of successful takedowns, busts, and arrests from Silk Road and AlphaBay. The immutable Bitcoin blockchain is the perfect place to follow the money. Nonetheless, one of the US prosecutors, Zia Faruqui, noted:

The darker the darknet gets, the way that you shine light is following the money.

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