US agents arrest 35 dark-web drugs and weapons dealers

27 Jun 2018

Numerous drugs were seized during a major sting operation. Image: ABO Photography/Shutterstock

Law enforcement officials from a group of US state departments went undercover to arrest dark-web traders.

35 people have been arrested in the US following the first nationwide undercover operation targeting vendors on the dark web. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the arrests yesterday (26 June).

The operation involved at least five federal agencies from around the country, including the US Postal Inspection Service, the US Secret Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Special agents posed as money launderers on the dark web during the operation, leading to the arrests.

According to the DOJ, massive quantities of drugs were seized, including 100,000 Tramadol pills and more than 24kg of Xanax. More than 100 firearms were confiscated, as well as approximately $3.6m in paper currency and gold bars. Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin were also found during the operation.

Just 70 search warrants were issued in order for the large quantities of contraband to be located and seized.

Unprecedented drugs crisis

The US currently has a massive opioid crisis on its hands. The operation was carried out with the role of the dark web in exacerbating the problem. Small quantities of opioids are sent by post from China, according to The Washington Post.

DEA special agent James Hunt said: “At this crucial time of unprecedented drug-related deaths, one of the greatest threats we face is cyber drug trafficking. Because the dark net invites criminals into our homes and provides unlimited access to illegal commerce, law enforcement is taking steps to identify and arrest those involved. I applaud all the agencies who participated in this groundbreaking investigation.”

While the dark web is relatively small in comparison to the regular internet, its use by criminals to support their activities has been a cause for concern for some time now. As well as drug trafficking and money-laundering endeavours, child-abuse rings have also cropped up on the mysterious part of the internet only accessible using software such as Tor.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects