Federal Authorities in California are Aggressively Targeting Alphabay and Silk Road Vendors
According to various court documents obtained by ArsTechnica, 11 vendors from large-scale dark web marketplaces Alphabay and Silkroad, which were shut down by the US law enforcement, are set to be sentenced by early 2018.
One of the 11 vendors is David Ryan Burchard, a long-time vendor on Alphabay, Silkroad and many other dark web marketplaces. As one of the largest marijuana and cocaine vendors on the dark web, Burchard processed over $1.4 million in sale of narcotics. Most vendors that were arrested along with the shutdown of AlphaBay in July pleaded guilty to their charges.
Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the US Attorney’s Office in Sacramento, revealed that four vendors excluding Burchard already pleaded guilty and of those, two have been sentenced. Horwood also noted that an additional 11 prosecutions are set to take place in the upcoming months. According to court documents, Burchard is set to be sentenced in federal court in Fresno on October 30, 2017 for selling 704 pounds of marijuana on various dark web marketplaces. Although Burchard operated as a major cocaine dealer on AlphaBay, his official charges only include his involvement in marijuana distribution.
ArsTechnica reported that the Los Angeles-based US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California has no ongoing case for dark web vendors and marketplace operators, while California has already prosecuted four major vendors and is in progress of prosecuting 11 more vendors from Silkroad and AlphaBay. Based on dark web activity, Los Angeles has been a significantly larger market for dark web marketplaces and drug distributors. Yet, in comparison to California, Los Angeles is yet to take any further actions and investigate or target dark web criminals.
Apart from Burchard, vendors such as Daniel Summerfield, who admitted to all of his criminal activities on the dark web to undercover agents are scheduled to be sentenced in November. Unlike Burchard, prosecutors have hard evidence such as the recording of admittance of guilt to proceed with maximum sentence against Summerfield. During his conversation with the undercover agents, Summerfield admitted to selling 200 pounds of marijuana per week and laundering millions of dollars in bitcoin through over-the-counter and peer to peer markets such as LocalBitcoins.
Another major AlphaBay vendor Emil Babadjov is also facing serious charges involving drug distribution and money laundering. Through two AlphaBay accounts named “BTH-OVERDOSE” and “BLIME-SUB,” the criminal complaint against Babadjov revealed that he conducted more than 1,700 transactions mostly in bitcoin. Federal agents went as far as to request Coinbase, the $1.6 billion bitcoin exchange and wallet platform, to forfeit any information they had of Babadjov.
The criminal complaint read:
“On November 14, 2016, I submitted an administrative subpoena to the Bitcoin exchange company Coinbase for any information that they might have on Babadjov@***.com. According to Coinbase, the email address of Babadjov@***.com was used on November 13, 2015, at approximately 4:58 pm, to establish a Coinbase account for Emil Babadjov.”
In the upcoming months, federal authorities in California intend to aggressively pursue the remaining 11 prosecutions. The majority of vendors are expected to be sentenced by the end of 2017, while some are set to be sentenced in early 2018.
On June 20, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the crackdown of AlphaBay and promised aggressive action against criminals and drug traffickers that have operated on the dark web and anonymous marketplaces over the past few years.
“Make no mistake, the forces of law and justice face a new challenge from the criminals and transnational criminal organizations who think they can commit their crimes with impunity using the darknet. The darknet is not a place to hide. The Department of Justice will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict, and incarcerate criminals, drug traffickers and their enablers wherever they are. We will use every tool we have to stop criminals from exploiting vulnerable people and sending so many Americans to an early grave,” said Sessions.
Federal authorities in California are doing exactly that. Prosecutions on more vendors will likely emerge upon the sentencing of the 11 vendors that have been prosecuted by the federal authorities in California.