Top dark web drug vendors nabbed by ‘Operation Darkness Falls’

The US government stepped up its attack on web criminals this week, announcing the arrests of several alleged drug traffickers that used hidden online services.

The Department of Justice announced the arrests, along with some charges and guilty pleas, as part of Operation Falls, a joint initiative involving several government agencies.

Together, they collared a couple that they called “the most prolific dark net fentanyl vendor in the United States and the fourth most prolific in the world”. San Antonio-based Matthew and Holly Roberts traded under the name MH4Life, among others. Way to obscure your identities, guys.

The couple traded on several dark web sites, including Dream Market, Silk Road, Darknet Heroes League and Nucleus. They also used AlphaBay, one of the largest dark web marketplaces, before it shut down last year.

They used Tor to communicate, and bought postage in cryptocurrency to hide their tracks, the DoJ said.

This was the big ticket arrest for the operation, but it included several others. When law enforcement arrested an alleged Xanax dealer, Nick Powell, earlier this year, they seized $438,000 in Bitcoin.

Some arrests have already led to guilty pleas. Ryan Kluth, who admitted to distributing fentanyl and child abuse images via dark web sites, is likely to get ten years in jail as part of his plea.

The authorities also worked with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to nab Canadian Robert Kiessling, labeled the third largest fentanyl reseller in North America.

Dark web sites cannot be reached via regular browsers using the HTTP protocol. Instead, they are located on private servers accessible only via encrypted, anonymising protocols such as Tor and I2P. This makes it difficult to know who is operating them or visiting them.

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