DoJ Releases Details of AlphaBay Raid

The US Department of Justice has announced the details of its internationally-coordinated raid & seizure of AlphaBay, the dark web’s largest black market retail site.

On July 5, Alexandre Cazes aka Alpha02 and Admin, 25, a Canadian citizen residing in Thailand, was arrested by Thai authorities on behalf of the United States for his role as the creator and administrator of AlphaBay.  On July 12, Cazes apparently took his own life while in custody in Thailand.  Cazes was charged in an indictment (1:17-CR-00144-LJO), filed in the Eastern District of California on June 1, with one count of conspiracy to engage in racketeering, one count of conspiracy to distribute narcotics, six counts of distribution of narcotics, one count of conspiracy to commit identity theft, four counts of unlawful transfer of false identification documents, one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud, one count of trafficking in device making equipment, and one count of money laundering conspiracy.  Law enforcement authorities in the United States worked with numerous foreign partners to freeze and preserve millions of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrencies that were the subject of forfeiture counts in the indictment, and that represent the proceeds of the AlphaBay organization’s illegal activities.

On July 19, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California filed a civil forfeiture complaint against Alexandre Cazes and his wife’s assets located throughout the world, including in Thailand, Cyprus, Lichtenstein, and Antigua & Barbuda. Cazes and his wife amassed numerous high value assets, including luxury vehicles, residences and a hotel in Thailand. Cazes also possessed millions of dollars in cryptocurrency, which has been seized by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

AlphaBay rose from the void left by the shuttering of Silk Road, the notorious marketplace run by Ross Ulbricht, who is currently serving a life sentence for hacking, money laundering and narcotics trafficking, all related to the operation of his site.  According the the DoJ, AlphaBay was a significantly larger-scale operation than Silk Road.

According to publicly available information on AlphaBay prior to its takedown, one AlphaBay staff member claimed that it serviced over 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors.  Around the time of takedown, there were over 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals on AlphaBay, and over 100,000 listings for stolen and fraudulent identification documents and access devices, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms and fraudulent services. Comparatively, the Silk Road dark web marketplace, which was seized by law enforcement in November 2013, had reportedly approximately 14,000 listings for illicit goods and services at the time of seizure and was the largest dark web marketplace at the time.

The same press release also announced the shutdown of Hansa Market, another popular dark web retail site, by Dutch authorities as part of the international investigation, dubbed “Operation Bayonet.”

The forfeiture complaint issued by the DoJ details how Cazes was ultimately unmasked: he used his Hotmail address as the contact for account resets and to send mass-messages to users. The address, “Pimp_Alex_91@hotmail.com,” was connected to accounts known to be used by Cazes prior to AlphaBay’s launch. Cazes was listed as the president of a Quebec-based IT services and software firm called EBX Technologies, whose web site shut down two days prior to his arrest.

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