Empire Market Owners Charged for Enabling $430M in Dark Web Transactions

Operators Charged

Two individuals have been indicted in a Chicago federal court for their roles in operating “Empire Market,” a notorious dark web marketplace responsible for over $430 million in illicit transactions between February 2018 and August 2020. The U.S.

Department of Justice (DOJ) announced these charges, revealing the scale and nature of the illegal activities facilitated through this marketplace.

Details of the Empire Market

Empire Market became a hub for illegal activities, allowing users to buy and sell a variety of illicit goods, including drugs, chemicals, jewelry, stolen credit card numbers, counterfeit currency, and malware. The marketplace offered payments in Monero, Litecoin, and Bitcoin, taking advantage of the anonymity these crypto currencies provide.

The operators used advanced obfuscation techniques, such as crypto currency tumbling services, to hide transaction origins and destinations, making it difficult for law enforcement to trace the money flow.

Sudden Shutdown and Exit Scam Allegations

In 2020, Empire Market abruptly ceased operations amidst a series of extortion-driven Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks.

This sudden shutdown prevented users from withdrawing funds held in escrow, leading to accusations of an exit scam. This move left many users stranded, unable to retrieve their crypto currency holdings.

Operators Identified

The indictment names Thomas Pavey, known online as “Dopenugget,” and Raheim Hamilton, also known as “Sydney” and “Zero Angel.” Before launching Empire Market, both individuals were involved in selling counterfeit U.S. currency on another dark web marketplace, AlphaBay.

Their transition to running Empire Market marked a significant escalation in their criminal activities.

Scope of Illegal Transactions

Empire Market facilitated over 4 million transactions, involving a vast array of illegal products such as stolen credit cards, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and LSD. Pavey and Hamilton profited by retaining a portion of the crypto currency used in these transactions.

This revenue not only lined their pockets but also paid a team of moderators who managed the marketplace.

Charges and Potential Penalties

Pavey and Hamilton face five severe charges:

  • Conspiracy to sell counterfeit U.S. currency on AlphaBay.
  • Conspiracy to distribute controlled substances through Empire Market.
  • Conspiracy to possess unauthorized access devices.
  • Conspiracy to sell counterfeit currency on Empire Market.
  • Conspiracy to commit money laundering to conceal proceeds from illegal activities.

Given the gravity of these charges, both could face life imprisonment if convicted, particularly due to the mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for drug trafficking offenses.

Additionally, they may be required to forfeit any property acquired through their criminal activities, including personal assets. If the original assets are not recoverable, substitute assets will be pursued.

Law Enforcement Actions and Asset Seizure

The DOJ’s announcement highlighted that investigations have already led to the seizure of $75 million in crypto currency, along with cash and precious metals.

These seizures underscore the extensive financial networks and assets accumulated by Pavey and Hamilton through their illicit operations.

Unresolved Questions

Despite the detailed charges and the substantial seizures, some questions remain unanswered. There is no information on the exact timing of the arrests or whether the 2020 shutdown of Empire Market was directly linked to law enforcement intervention. The investigation continues, aiming to unravel the full extent of the criminal network behind one of the dark web’s most infamous marketplaces.

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *