(FreedomBeacon.com)- In January, police in Germany took down an online market place on the dark web called DarkMarket. When they did so, they shut down the largest online drug marketplace that was operating.
As part of the bust, they took down more than 20 servers that were located in Ukraine and Moldova, finding out information about the sellers and buyers on the site in the process.
This week, as a result of all that work, a joint operation that included Europol, the U.S. Department of Justice and many other agencies announced they arrested 150 people in eight different countries. In addition, they seized more than 230 kilograms of drugs as well as $31.6 million in cryptocurrency and cash.
The operation, dubbed Operation Dark HunTor, certainly isn’t the first of its kind. In fact, Operation DisrupTor last year resulted in about the same number of people arrested, but seized twice as many drugs.
These latest operations are showing a trend in what law enforcement is doing. They are targeting the vendors that are located on the dark web, rather than the specific sites that are selling the drugs.
As one computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, Nicolas Christin, has said:
“It seems that the police are now using data recovered from seized marketplaces to try to go after what I presume are large vendors, as opposed to taking down a bunch of markets at the same time. It’s a bit of a shift in tactics.”
What this shift in tactics has done is result in the arrest of some of the biggest players in the online drug trade. U.S. prosecutors are charging that Hyun Ji Martin and some of her associates sent 1,600 packages through the U.S. mail under various fake names.
Another person, Jonathan Patrick Turrentine, did so well on the marketplace that he had almost 1,000 positive reviews. There, he sold people’s emails and passwords, as well as many drugs.
According to documents filed in court, another person, Albie Pagan, brought in more than $1 million just on Wall Street from his drug sales.
In addition to these three prominent arrests, 62 more of the people arrested in the recent sting were based in the United States. The other people arrested were located in the UK, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, France, Bulgaria and Australia.
On Tuesday, Lisa Monaco, the deputy attorney general, said at a press conference:
“Operation Dark HunTor was launched with one clear goal: to hunt down the vendors, buyers and suppliers who had been hiding on that site and make sure they did not find a new platform.”
Some of those who were arrested didn’t trace exclusively or directly to the takedown of DarkMarket. According to court documents, many of the arrests track to suspicious packages that provided a tipoff to authorities.
In addition, previous takedowns of other sites such as Wall Street Market and Hansa are providing to provide dividends for law enforcement.
As Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, the deputy executive director of Europol, explained:
“Today, I think some of them, maybe they are a little bit worried about who is going to be on the list, the next ones. Some investigations are still ongoing in some of the countries that you see here because some people have been identified, and the work will be following. Each time we arrest people, each time we search a house, we find new leads for new investigations.”