• October 22, 2020

Moderator of Dark Web Market AlphaBay Sentenced to 11 Years in Jail

Brian Herl, who settled disputes on AlphaBay, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in January.

Nine months after entering a guilty plea at a California district court, Bryan Connor Herrell, 26, was sentenced Tuesday to eleven years behind bars for his role as an AlphaBay moderator, based on a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.

AlphaBay was a dark web market accessed by Tor Browser. In this market, vendors and customers would gather to sell and buy drugs, weapons, stolen IDs, credit card numbers, stolen accounts, and more, but the market was mostly used to sell and buy drugs.

The website, an outgrowth of earlier dark web site Silk Road, just ten times bigger, saw its last days in 2017 after nearly three decades of operation. A law enforcement operation spanning three nations shattered the website, with Canadian authorities seizing its servers in Quebec and U.S. officials seeking the extradition of one of its administrators, Alexandre Cazes, to the U.S.

Cazes was later found hanging from a towel at a Bangkok prison cell -a suspected suicide.

When it went down, the website had almost 400K users and has been the go-to place for purchasing illegal drugs online. Purchases were generally made in cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, Monero, and Ether, since they provided anonymity.

As a moderator on AlphaBay, Herrell, who went by the nicknames “Penissmith” and “Botah,” settled disputes between vendors and buyers on the website, the DOJ said. He also served as a “scam watcher,” keeping a lookout for any efforts to defraud AlphaBay users.

For his efforts, the Aurora, Colorado, resident has been paid in Bitcoin.

In January, Herrell pleaded guilty to conspiring to participate in a racketeer-influenced corrupt organization.

“This sentence serves as additional evidence that criminals can’t hide behind technology to violate the law,” U.S. Prosecutor McGregor Scott said in a statement on Tuesday. “Operating behind the veil of the darknet might appear to provide shelter from criminal investigations, but people should think twice before purchasing or selling drugs on the internet –you will be captured.”

The investigation of AlphaBay and its former administrators is continuing.

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