Money laundering and taking illegal kickbacks are but two of the charges being brought by U.S. authorities against alleged moderators of DeepDotWeb, the dark web comparison and news site recently shut down by the FBI.
Two Israeli citizens–Tal Prihar, 37, and Michael Phan, 34—were arrested Monday in France and Israel, respectively. Three other arrests were reportedly made in Germany, the Netherlands, and Brazil.
Posting on Medium, an alleged DeepDotWeb insider said that “instead of arresting Prihar in Brazil, authorities arranged for his arrest in France where Prihar would land for a connecting flight between Israel and Brazil.”
Brazilian authorities reportedly found $200,000 in cash at Prihar’s home after his arrest, along with “an undisclosed amount of various cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin.”
Suspects amassed over $15 million in bitcoin
Authorities say that DeepDotWeb was using its affiliate system to mask a kickback scheme employed by Prihar and Phan to receive cash in return for driving more business towards dark web exchanges.
DeepDotWeb’s moderators allegedly used bitcoin transactions to hide their tracks. The indictment document, which was unsealed Wednesday, claimed that the pair had accounts at crypto exchanges Kraken and OKCoin as well as an account at payment processor BitPay.
Prihar and Phan allegedly made 8,155 bitcoins from their illegal kickback system. Authorities estimate their total haul at $15.4 million.
“To conceal and disguise the nature and source of the illegal proceeds, totaling over $15 million, Prihar and Phan transferred their illegal kickback payments from their DDW bitcoin wallet to other bitcoin accounts and to bank accounts they controlled in the names of shell companies,” reads the indictment.
Scott Brady, the U.S. attorney for Western Philadelphia, said in a press conference that DeepDotWeb’s seizure is the single most significant law enforcement disruption of the dark net to date.