The U.S. Justice Department has brought charges against Deep Dot Web, a site that featured news, information and reviews about dark web sites and surreptitious marketplaces, according to a report by TechCrunch.
The site’s alleged co-owners, Tal Prihar and Michael Phan, who are both Israeli, were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Prihar was arrested on Monday (May 6) in Paris, and Phan was arrested in a simultaneous raid by Israeli police. They’re accused of collecting millions in commission from the site by linking to marketplaces on the dark web that are only accessible through Tor, an encrypted, anonymous network.
A number of those marketplaces sold drugs, guns and stolen data, which hackers could use to break into people’s online accounts.
In a Medium post following the arrests, a staffer at the site said that it would get a slice of revenue from purchases made on the marketplaces, sometimes up to 4 percent.
Brazil police released a statement saying that the site made millions in crypto from the referrals.
“It was truly a 50:50 partnership between the two defendants,” Scott Brady, U.S. attorney for Western Philadelphia, said during a Pittsburgh press conference Wednesday about the arrests.
More than 23 percent of all the transaction made on AlphaBay, a dark web marketplace which has also been shut down, were associated with referrals from Deep Dot Web, according to the district attorney. The marketplace was taken down in 2017.
Deep Dot Web also referred upwards of 198,000 people to Hansa, another shuttered marketplace, which accounted for nearly half of the sites users. Deep Dot Web “received a commission on all of those users’ purchases.”
The indictment said the pair made around 8,155 bitcoins, which at their peak were worth upwards of $15.4 million. Half of that was collected from AlphaBay.
“This is the single most significant law enforcement disruption of the dark net to date,” Brady said.