A nationwide undercover operation by the US Secret Service, Homeland Security Investigations, DEA, and others has resulted in the arrest of over 35 vendors on the Darknet.
If there’s one trope you’ll see in movies or on TV when it comes to cryptocurrency, it’s the Darknet. Hollywood loves to portray that any crypto hodler can log in and begin buying drugs or hiring assassins with ease. The reality is far different as it has been proven that less than 1 percent of all Bitcoin transactions are used for illicit activities. However, the Darknet is real, and a number of alleged vendors are now finding themselves behind bars.
Massive Undercover Operation
A bevy of government officials announced the results of a nationwide undercover operation targeting criminal vendors that were active on the Darknet. The main criminal activity investigated was narcotics.
The operation was carried out by the Department of Justice (DOJ), US Secret Service (USSS), US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The operation lasted for a year with 90 active cases, not to mention the cooperation of 40 US Attorney’s Offices. Eventually, 65 targets were identified, and more than 35 Darknet vendors were arrested.
Of the operation, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said:
Criminals who think that they are safe on the Darknet are wrong. We can expose their networks, and we are determined to bring them to justice. Today, we arrested more than 35 alleged Darknet vendors. We seized their weapons, their drugs, and $23.6 million of their ill-gotten gains. This nationwide enforcement effort will reduce the supply of deadly drugs like fentanyl that are killing an unprecedented number of Americans.
The culmination of the undercover operation lasted for 4 weeks, during which 100 law enforcement actions were undertaken. 70 search warrants were executed, and a lot of items were confiscated, including Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
The list of confiscated items features over 100 weapons (including a grenade launcher!), five vehicles used for illicit activities, $3.6 million in gold bars and US currency, 15 pill presses, 33 bottles of liquid synthetic opioids, over $20 million in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin mining equipment, and a laundry list of narcotics.
DEA Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt said:
At this crucial time of unprecedented drug related deaths, one of the greatest threats we face is cyber drug trafficking. Because the Darknet invites criminals into our homes, and provides unlimited access to illegal commerce, law enforcement is taking steps to identify and arrest those involved.
HSI Acting Executive Associate Director Derek Benner added:
The Darknet is ever-changing and increasingly more intricate, making locating and targeting those selling illicit items on this platform more complicated. But in this case, HSI special agents were able to walk amongst those in the cyber underworld to find those vendors who sell highly addictive drugs for a profit. The veil has been lifted. HSI has infiltrated the Darknet, and together with its law enforcement partners nationwide, it has proven, once again, that every criminal is within arm’s reach of the law.
This is obviously a massive operation. While some may say that 35ish vendors arrested are a small number, it should be remembered that this is only the beginning. Small fish lead to bigger fish, and it’s a certainty that the federal agencies are combing through every transaction to widen their net.
What is your opinion on this huge undercover operation? Let us know in the comments below.
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