In a recent crackdown on illicit transactions involving crypto assets, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) arrested Rui-Siang Lin, a 23-year-old individual from Taiwan. Lin, who also goes by the names Pharoah and Faro, is accused of owning and operating a dark web drug marketplace known as the “Incognito Market.” 

The platform allegedly facilitated anonymous crypto-based transactions of illegal narcotics with a total value of more than $100 million worldwide.

$100 Million Crypto Operation Exposed

According to the complaint and indictment, Incognito Market emerged in October 2020 as an online narcotics bazaar operating on the dark web. Until its closure in March, the marketplace facilitated the sale of over $100 million worth of crypto in narcotics, including substantial quantities of cocaine and methamphetamines. 

Accessible to global users with internet connectivity, Incognito Market could be reached via the Tor web browser on the darknet. Lin, operating under the online pseudonyms “Pharoah” or “Faro,” acted as the market leader and oversaw all its operations, including employees, vendors, and customers. 

US Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York highlighted that Lin’s alleged operation exploited the community for personal profit, emphasizing that criminal actors would be pursued regardless of whether they operated on street corners or the “dark corners of the internet.” 

Dark Web Drug Lord Arrested

According to the DOJ, Incognito Market was designed to facilitate seamless narcotics transactions worldwide by incorporating features commonly seen on legitimate e-commerce sites, such as branding, advertising, and customer service. 

Users reportedly gained access to the marketplace by logging in with unique usernames and passwords, allowing them to search thousands of listings for the drugs of their choice. 

It is further alleged that the platform sold illegal narcotics and misbranded prescription drugs, including heroin, cocaine, LSD, MDMA, oxycodone, methamphetamines, ketamine, and alprazolam. 

To become a vendor on Incognito Market, individuals had to register with the site and pay an admission fee. In exchange for listing and selling narcotics, vendors paid 5% of the purchase price to Incognito Market. Lin accumulated millions of dollars in profits from the operation

Interestingly, the marketplace had a “bank” that allowed users to deposit crypto assets into their “digital bank accounts.” After a transaction, the cryptocurrency was transferred from the buyer’s account to the seller’s account, with Incognito Market taking a 5% fee

Lin was arrested on May 18 at John F. Kennedy Airport, and he is set to appear before US Magistrate Judge Willis in Manhattan federal court. 

If found guilty, Lin faces severe penalties, including a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for narcotics conspiracy, a maximum sentence of 20 years for money laundering, and a maximum sentence of 20 years for conspiracy to distribute narcotics. 

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