(CBS4) – A 26-year-old Aurora man, Bryan Connor Herrell, was sentenced Tuesday in California federal court to 11 years in prison for working as an administrator in an illegal dark web marketplace.
Herrell, according to court documents from the U.S. Department of Justice, was a moderator for AlphaBay, an online site that engaged in hundreds of thousands of illicit transactions for guns, drugs, stolen identity information, credit card numbers and other illegal items. Herrell settled disputes between vendors and purchasers on the site, and also served to protect AlphaBay from being defrauded by either.
The dark web, or darknet, is an underlayer of the worldwide internet with its own communications networks and websites. The dark web requires special security software to encrypt browsing activity and hide a user’s location and identifiable details.
“This sentence serves as further proof that criminals cannot hide behind technology to break the law,” said U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott of the Eastern District of California. “Operating behind the veil of the darknet may seem to offer shelter from criminal investigations, but people should think twice before ordering or selling drugs online — you will be caught.”
Herrell went by the monikers “Penissmith” and “Botah,” according to prosecutors, and was paid in Bitcoin for his participation.
AlphaBay’s alleged founder, Alexandre Cazes, was indicted by a grand jury on June 1, 2017. On July 5 of that year, Cazes, a 26-year-old Canadian national at the time, was arrested at his residence in Bangkok, Thailand, and AlphaBay was taken down with arrests across the globe.
Cazes was found dead in his cell shortly after his arrest. Thailand police called his death a suicide.
During Cazes’s arrest, authorities discovered his laptop — open and unencrypted — and recovered files with AlphaBay security codes and passwords, connections to AlphaBay’s servers, and lists of other online entities associated with AlphaBay.
“Cases like these exemplify how the FBI and our international partners are eliminating the false promise of anonymity dark marketplaces claim to provide and are successfully dismantling criminal organizations which prey upon communities through use of sophisticated computer code,” said Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan of the FBI’s Sacramento Field Office. “Herrell’s sentence sends a clear message to criminals that the darknet is no safe haven for illegal transactions.”