Two so-called “dark Web” sites dedicated to illegal drug and arms sales have been seized in an audacious sting operation, and the suspected ringleader has committed suicide, U.S. Justice Department officials said Thursday.
Canadian Alexandre Cazes, 25, who was suspected of creating an illegal online marketplace called AlphaBay, was arrested by Thai authorities earlier this month.
He committed suicide by hanging while in custody July 12, said Lauren Horwood, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of California.
Cazes had been charged in connection with running the black market site that Horwood called “much bigger” than Silk Road, a notorious dark Web marketplace seized by law enforcement in 2013.
European and American law enforcement authorities conducted an elaborate operation designed to fool AlphaBay users into revealing themselves.
The investigators shut down AlphaBay in a manner deliberately crafted to look like a heist. They hoped users would think that the site’s administrator had absconded with their money and disappeared — a common hazard on the dark Web — and that they would take their business elsewhere.
In particular, investigators hoped that as news of the shutdown filtered through hacker sites and Web news sources, AlphaBay customers would switch to using another large and notorious black-market site called Hansa — now in the secret control of Dutch National Police.
When AlphaBay’s contraband business started turning up on Hansa, Dutch police were lying in wait. They used Hansa as a front for collecting evidence for a couple of weeks before it too was shut down.
“When I first heard about this, I thought, ‘Oh, you guys have read too many novels,'” said Horwood. “But then it worked.”
Cazes had been indicted on racketeering, narcotics and identity-theft related charges. Federal prosecutors Wednesday filed a civil forfeiture complaint against Cazes and his wife’s assets.
These include a BMW motorcycle, a Lamborghini Aventador sportscar, condos…