AlphaBay was seized by federal officials (Credit: Department of Justice)

Feds seize largest criminal ‘dark web’ site AlphaBay after Atlanta investigations

The largest criminal marketplace on the internet, AlphaBay, has been seized by the U.S. Department of Justice with the help of Atlanta-based investigations, officials said Thursday.

An AlphaBay staffer was identified through an ongoing investigation conducted in Atlanta, DOJ spokesman Bob Page said. 

Officials said the “dark web” operation started more than two years ago. When it was seized on July 4, AlphaBay vendors offered more than 250,000 listings for illegal drugs, such as fentanyl, and other toxic chemicals, Page said.

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More than 40,000 vendors served an estimated 200,000 users, officials said.

Comparatively, the Silk Road dark web marketplace, which was seized by law enforcement in November 2013, had about 14,000 listings for illicit goods and services at the time of seizure and was the largest dark web marketplace at the time, Page said.

The alleged founder and operator of AlphaBay, Alexandre Cazes of Canada, was arrested at his home in Bangkok, Thailand, on July 5, Page said. The 25-year-old committed suicide while in custody in Thailand, Page said.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the seizure of AlphaBay is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of the year — and he warns those who would use the dark web for crime.

“We will use every tool we have to stop criminals from exploiting vulnerable people and sending so many Americans to an early grave,” Sessions said. “I believe that because of this operation, the American people are safer – safer from the threat of identity fraud and malware, and safer from deadly drugs.”

AlphaBay operated as a hidden service on the “Tor” network, using “cryptocurrencies” like Bitcoin, Monero and Ethereum to hide the locations of its underlying servers and the identities of its administrators, moderators and users, Page said. 

In 2016, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta prosecuted Aaron Glende, also known as IcyEagle, who operated as a vendor on AlphaBay, Page said. Glende pleaded guilty to access device fraud and aggravated identity theft and was sentenced to four years and two months’ imprisonment on Nov. 30, 2016.

Authorities believe AlphaBay was also used to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from illegal transactions on the website. 

Dangerous fentanyl and other opioids can be ordered from online black marketplaces on the "Dark Web" and shipped to vacant houses in the Miami Valley to be collected by dealers and users. A loophole in postal laws makes it easier.

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