The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) on Wednesday said that an Israeli national pleaded guilty for his role as an "administrator" of a portal called DeepDotWeb (DDW), a "news" website that "served as a gateway to numerous dark web marketplaces."
According to the unsealed court documents, Tal Prihar, 37, an Israeli citizen residing in Brazil, operated DDW alongside Michael Phan, 34, of Israel, starting October 2013, in return for which they received kickbacks from the operators of the marketplaces in the form of virtual currency amounting to 8,155 bitcoins (worth $8.4 million at the time of the transactions).
In an attempt to conceal the illicit payments, Prihar is said to have transferred the money to other bitcoin accounts and to bank accounts under his control in the name of shell companies.
"Tal Prihar served as a broker for illegal Darknet marketplaces — helping such marketplaces find customers for fentanyl, firearms, and other dangerous contraband — and profited from the illegal business that ensued," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the DoJ's Criminal Division.
"This prosecution, seizure of the broker website, and forfeiture send a clear message that we are not only prosecuting the administrators of Darknet marketplaces offering illegal goods and services, but we will also bring to justice those that aim to facilitate and profit from them."
DDW was seized by federal authorities in April 2019 as part of a joint law enforcement operation involving Europol's European Cybercrime Centre, France, Germany, Brazil, Israel, the Netherlands, U.K., and the U.S., with the website rendered inaccessible beyond a domain seizure notice.
The referral links included listings for underground marketplaces such as AlphaBay, Agora, Abraxas, Dream, and Valhalla, which traded in illegal firearms, malware and hacking tools, stolen financial data, heroin and fentanyl, and other contraband.
In addition to pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, Prihar has also agreed to forfeit the entire proceeds amassed from each purchase of illegal goods made on a dark web marketplace linked to the DDW site. He is scheduled to be sentenced on August 2, and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.