FBI arrests young kingpin of dark web Incognito Market

The online bazaar facilitated the sale of illegal drugs across the globe

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FBI arrests young kingpin of dark web Incognito Market
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FBI arrests young kingpin of dark web Incognito Market

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday announced a major victory in the fight against dark web drug trafficking with the arrest of 23-year-old Rui-Siang Lin, also known as "Pharoah" or "faro."

Lin, a resident of Taiwan, is accused of operating Incognito Market, an online bazaar that facilitated the sale of illegal narcotics across the globe.

According to a DOJ press release, Lin allegedly had "ultimate decision-making authority" over Incognito Market, which is estimated to have processed over $100 million in narcotics transactions.

Lin was detained on 18th May at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and appeared in Manhattan federal court.

Incognito Market, operational since October 2020, was shut down in March of this year. It operated as a dark web marketplace, offering anonymity to buyers and sellers of illegal drugs such as heroin, cocaine, LSD, and MDMA. Unlike traditional online retailers, Incognito Market did not directly sell drugs but instead took a 5% commission from each sale, creating a multi-million dollar operation with a sophisticated online presence.

The platform resembled legitimate e-commerce sites, featuring a user-friendly interface with search functions, product listings, and even a "customer service" feature.

Investigators detailed a concerning trend of misbranded prescription drugs available on the platform.

For instance, an undercover agent purchased what was purported to be oxycodone in November 2023, only to find the pills were laced with fentanyl, a potentially lethal synthetic opioid.

To maintain anonymity, Incognito Market used a built-in cryptocurrency bank for transactions. Buyers and sellers deposited and withdrew funds via digital wallets, further concealing their identities.

Lin's arrest resulted from detailed FBI investigative work.

Authorities tracked cryptocurrency transfers associated with Incognito Market, eventually leading to a digital wallet connected to Lin. The FBI obtained Lin's personal information, including identification documents, email address, and phone number, through the cryptocurrency exchange hosting the wallet.

"Mr. Lin's alleged actions of putting profits before public health were not only reckless and dangerous, but unconscionable. We will continue to make sure those who hide behind a keyboard and use the dark web to profit off lives face justice," said Special Agent in Charge Frank A. Tarentino III of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)'s New York Division.

If convicted, Lin faces severe penalties.

Potential charges include a mandatory life sentence for operating a continuing criminal enterprise, life imprisonment for narcotics conspiracy, 20 years for money laundering, and an additional five years for conspiracy to sell adulterated and misbranded medication.

The takedown of Incognito Market serves as a reminder of the dangers lurking in the dark web.

"Drug traffickers who think they can operate outside the law on the dark web are wrong," said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.

Last week, the FBI and law enforcement agencies from several countries successfully seized the website and Telegram channel of BreachForums, a well-known online marketplace for stolen data, hacking tools and other illegal services.

Earlier this year, the DOJ announced the successful conclusion of a transnational cybercrime investigation into the xDedic Marketplace, resulting in charges against 19 individuals worldwide.

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