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Alleged Dark Web Drug Market Operator Arrested Because of Crypto


A significant breakthrough in the fight against online drug trafficking has been announced by the FBI. Rui-Siang Lin, a 23-year-old man, was arrested at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport on May 18. Lin, also known by his online alias “Pharoah,” is accused of owning and operating the notorious dark web marketplace, Incognito Market. The Manhattan United States Attorney’s Office stated that Lin appeared in federal court on May 20.

Crypto Transfers Unveil Lin’s Identity

The FBI’s investigation revealed Lin’s alleged involvement in the Incognito Market by tracing cryptocurrency transactions from the dark web to a crypto exchange account in his name. FBI Assistant Director in Charge James Smith commented, “For nearly four years, Rui-Siang Lin allegedly operated ‘Incognito Market,’ one of the largest online platforms for narcotics sales, conducting $100 million in illicit narcotics transactions and reaping millions of dollars in personal profits.”

Incognito Market functioned as an onion-based e-commerce platform, accessible via the Tor web browser. It facilitated the sale of various drugs, including cocaine, LSD, MDMA, and prescription amphetamines like Adderall, using Bitcoin and Monero for payments. The platform also imposed a 5% fee on transactions and offered an escrow service.

Legal Consequences and Forfeitures

The Department of Justice (DOJ) noted that Incognito Market closed in March this year, coinciding with an exit scam that allegedly stole millions of dollars in customer cryptocurrency. Lin faces several serious charges, including engaging in a criminal enterprise, narcotics conspiracy, conspiracy to sell misbranded medication, and money laundering. If convicted, he faces a mandatory life sentence for the criminal enterprise charge, with the narcotics conspiracy charge also carrying a maximum life sentence.

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The FBI’s tracking efforts showed that funds from Incognito Market were sent to a crypto wallet controlled by Lin. From there, the funds were moved to an exchange account in his name. FBI task force officer Mark Rubens detailed at least four transfers where Incognito Market-derived Bitcoin was swapped for Monero, then deposited into Lin’s crypto exchange account. The exchange provided the FBI with Lin’s Taiwanese driver’s license, email address, and phone number, further solidifying the evidence against him.

The DOJ has issued a forfeiture for cryptocurrency held in Lin’s Binance and Kraken accounts. The deposits to Lin’s crypto exchange accounts significantly grew with the market’s success, from around $63,000 in 2021 to nearly $4.2 million in 2023, with a second exchange account seeing $4.5 million deposited between July and November of the previous year.

The arrest of Rui-Siang Lin marks a significant victory for law enforcement against dark web drug markets. The meticulous tracking of cryptocurrency transactions played a crucial role in uncovering Lin’s identity and his alleged operations of the Incognito Market.

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