Israeli Pleads Guilty in Global Probe Into Multi-million Dark Net Site

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FILE PHOTO: A token of the virtual currency Bitcoin is seen placed on a monitor that displays binary digits in this illustration picture, December 8, 2017.
FILE PHOTO: A token of the virtual currency Bitcoin is seen placed on a monitor that displays binary digits in this illustration picture, December 8, 2017.Credit: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

An Israeli national living in Brazil pleaded guilty for his role in a money laundering conspiracy through his ownership and management of the illicit website, which allowed internet users to access a wide range of contraband in dark net marketplaces, the U.S. Department on Justice said on Wednesday.

Tal Prihar, 37, co-owned DeepDotWeb (DDW) which served as a a portal to illegal online marketplaces in 2013, where they could access illegal firearms, hard drugs, malware and hacking tools, and stolen financial data, among other things.

The Department of Justice did not make reference to how the other defendant, 34-year-old Israeli Michael Phan, pleaded.

The two men earned 8,155 bitcoins in kickback payments, approximately $8.4 million dollars at the value of the cryptocurrency at the time of transaction, and concealed their steps through transferring the funds to other bitcoin wallets and bank accounts of shell companies. 

DDW was seized by U.S. authorities in 2019 and Prihar agreed to forfeit $8,414,173.

The Department of Justice explicitly thanked the Israeli Police, among other international law enforcement agencies, for their assistance in the case. 

Prihar pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and  is set to be sentenced on August 2. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

The FBI’s Pittsburgh Field Office is investigating the case.

In 2019, U.S. prosecutors filed money laundering charges against the two men.

Robert Johnson, an assistant director of the FBI, said DDW operated for years as a “key gateway to the criminal underbelly” of the so-called dark web, or Darknet, economy.

Scott Brady, the U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh, where the federal charges were filed, called the case the “single most significant law enforcement disruption of the Darknet to date.”

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