The Department of Justice announced Thursday the takedown of the largest online drug marketplace and the indictment of the site’s alleged founder who has since taken his life.
Alphabay operated on Tor Browser, which allows for user anonymity, and had over 250,000 listings for illicit goods and services at the time it was taken down. The most prominent dark web marketplace takedown in recent history was Silk Road in November 2013, which comparatively had around 14,000 listings for illegal goods and services.
The alleged creator and operator of Alphabay, Alexandre Cazes, is a Canadian-born man who killed himself on July 12 days after after being arrested by Thai authorities following a federal indictment. When the police raided Cazes’ home in Bangkok they found a financial statement on his computer that claimed he had a net worth of $23,033,975, according to an asset forfeiture complaint.
A federal indictment against Cazes reveals that undercover agents purchased illegal drugs, fake driver’s licenses, and ATM skimmers from Alphabay. The site would make a profit through charging a commission of two to four percent for every sale.
Authorities found out Cazes’ identity after realizing that his personal email — “Pimp_Alex_91@hotmail.com” — was included in the header information for Alphabay’s welcome and password recovery emails. One of the ways law enforcement officials connected this email address to Cazes was through a forum post by him in which he included his name alongside the email.
“This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of the year – taking down the largest dark net marketplace in history,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “Make no mistake, the forces of law and justice face a new challenge from the criminals and transnational criminal organizations who think they can commit their crimes with impunity using the dark net. The dark net is not a place to hide.”