A multinational police operation has led to charges being filed against four individuals accused of running a dark net website that traded in illegal drugs, stolen personal information, and malicious software according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California. Three of the individuals taken into custody are German nationals who were apprehended in Los Angeles. The fourth is a Brazilian national who was taken into custody in his home country.
The website, which was known as the Wall Street Market according to federal prosecutors, is said to have used sophisticated encryption techniques and only accepted payments in difficult-to-trace cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to elude law enforcement. Court papers reveal that the website's visitors were able to purchase drugs including heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine. The three Germans are accused of being the site's administrators and each face multiple felony counts of money laundering and distributing narcotics.
The Brazilian man taken into custody was the website's moderator according to prosecutors. He is alleged to have mediated disputes between parties doing business on the Wall Street Market and is also facing drug and money laundering charges. Media reports suggest that the site was extremely profitable for the individuals charged. They are said to have earned about $11 million by taking commissions of between 2% and 6% of the purchase amounts.
Federal prosecutors tend to take great care when preparing cases that are likely to attract a great deal of media attention, and they usually do not act until they have strong evidence. When representing defendants who are accused of committing serious federal drug crimes, experienced criminal defense attorneys may seek to sit down with U.S. attorneys to resolve matters at the negotiating table.
Source: NBC Los Angeles, Three Accused of Operating a Hidden Marketplace for Drugs, Counterfeit Items, May 3, 2019