25.04.18 Darknet and Cybercrime Roundup
During the last seven days, the police have arrested darknet traffickers in both Germany and the Netherlands. The USPIS ended the career of two individuals who allegedly played a massive role in the Xanax distribution network, and German authorities ended another child abuse site.
Last Defendant has Entered Prison in Alphabay Heroin Case
Unlike his accomplice, former darknet vendor Chaudhry Ahmad Farooq managed to get several months outside prison before he had to turn himself in. Farooq and his partner Abdullah Almashwali both got caught in a federal investigation into the darknet vendor accounts “Dark Apollo” and “Area 51.” They sold heroin, and according to the court documents filed by federal investors, they sold a lot of heroin.
The courts ruled that Almashwali masterminded the operation. Officers recorded the duo operating out of Brooklyn, New York. Farooq, though, mostly picked up and dropped off packages his his partner. Perhaps Farooq’s actions pleased the court; after all, his PGP key ultimately ended their lucrative darknet ventures.
Almashwali got sentenced to six years in 2017. He went to prison after hearing his sentence. Farooq managed to avoid sentencing until earlier this year. He left the courtroom with a two year prison sentence that began only days ago.
German Man Ordered Drugs to His Grandmother’s House
A recent case heard at the District Court in Munich was fairly standard—as far as darknet cases go. A man ordered cocaine and amphetamine and may have successfully completed several orders. One day, though, the police intercept a package and his life changes. Judge Stefan Weickert treated the case like he would any other case, too.
The details of the investigation revealed some interesting and unusual pieces of information. During the case, German Police considered investigating the grandmother of the defendant. They would not have been operating outside of the law either. During the case, a 29-year-old man ordered packages of amphetamine from the darknet. Since of the packs made it to his apartment successfully. But, at one point, the man had moved in with his grandmother. In at least one incident, the police intercepted a package headed for the grandmother’s house. Her grandson had left before the package has arrived. Not knowing any better—or even that one could order drugs online—the grandmother accepted and signed for the package.
The courier was an undercover police officer. Since the grandmother had signed for the package, she had taken legal responsibility for the package’s contents. It happened again, but the police had already learned the grandmother had not ordered any drugs. The grandson made it clear his grandmother had not played any intentional role in his drug distribution operation.
Judge Stefan Weickert sentenced the man to four years in prison. His grandmother chose not to show up in court.
Two Darknet Vendors Busted in the Netherlands
According to an announcement from authorities in the Netherlands, a lengthy investigation led to the arrest of two major players in the darknet drug game. They did not release the identities of the darknet vendors but revealed the suspects had been shipping thousands of packages across the globe.
The arrests are likely connected to the recent crackdown on careless buyers on the Hansa darknet market. The police used many methods to identify to identify darknet vendors; they are higher priority targets than buyers. When identifying the buyers, the police only needed to make sure they received the contents of text input fields before the market encrypted them. (One reason encrypting information oneself is so important.) With vendors, the police tried numerous methods with varying success.
Hansa market—before the police took control of it—automatically removed metadata from the pictures a darknet vendor uploaded. The police removed this function. They also created a .xlsx file that contained a ‘phone home’ function. Any vendor who opened the file outside of Tails or on a system not protected by a VPN would reveal their true IP address to the police.
Police Seized 60K Xanax Pills in Tennessee Drug Bust
In January 2018, a United States Postal Inspector speed what he described as a pattern of suspicious packages that someone had been shipping from a Post Office in Tennessee to addresses across the United States. The investigation led to the discovery of 60,000 fake Xanax pills and a pound of alprazolam powder.
The Postal Inspector notified local authorities and pointed them to the Post Office where the packages had been coming from. Narcotics Detective Mike Hoekstra indemnified two individuals that made routine trips to the Post Office and dropped off loads of packages. The packages, a federal search warrant obtained by the USPIS Inspector revealed, contained pressed alprazolam pills.
Local authorities received a search warrant for the houses that belonged to 25-year-old Joseph Davis and 29-year-old Erica Dotson—the two suspects seen at the Post Office. They found more than 1.3 million dollars worth of pressed Xanax pills and one pound of drug used to create the pills—alprazolam.
German Police Busted Another Child Abuse Forum Admin
German Police successfully busted another child abuse site and two members of the site’s staff. One of the arrested staff members owned the site. The police believe he may not have been the site’s only owner though.
According to the Public Prosecutor in Hannover, a tip from a third party who had been monitoring the site—a chatroom called Tabooless Chat—led to the owner’s capture. The site provided a method for pedophiles to meet one another for reasons likely prosecutable. In one of the chats, the site’s owner dropped information that led the tipster to believe the offender lived in or near Hannover.
The police listened to the tipster’s information and watched the site. They covertly investigated the suspected owner and a suspected technical administrator. When the time came, the Public Prosecutor in Hannover and Hannover police arrested both men and took the site down—according to their press release. The site now shows a seizure banner that tells would-be visitors to get help rather than break the law.
Users of other darknet forums and sites for pedophiles have been questioning the legitimacy of the takedown. Local news outlets covered the court case of the admin before the official press release ever surfaced, causing some to believe the site shutdown and owner arrest we’re unrelated events. After the official announcement appeared on the Public Prosecutor’s website, though, doubt slipped from many forum users. Some now wonder who the police arrested; the press release indicated that both men had fully complied with the police. Furthermore, an entity on the darknet started spreading rumors that the police started operating the account of an active member of many of the child abuse sites.
The arrest and takedown have sparked some mystery and changes, but have also opened the door for wild theories and beliefs.