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DOJ continues scrutiny of underground market sellers, arrests arms vendor

John Ribeiro | Nov. 11, 2013
The U.S. DOJ has arrested a seller on 'Black Market Reloaded' for alleged illegal weapons sale.

The U.S. Department of Justice is scrutinizing sellers on underground online marketplaces, and on Thursday said federal agents had arrested one person for alleged illegal weapons sale on underground market "Black Market Reloaded" in an elaborate sting operation.

U.S. officials shut down about a month ago the "Silk Road," an underground market which was accessible only through the Tor anonymity service and used the anonymous bitcoin virtual currency to keep the identity of sellers and buyers private. Silk Road is alleged to have been a thriving market for drugs and other illegal products and services, including fake passports. The National Crime Agency in the U.K. also arrested in October some persons suspected of selling illegal drugs on Silk Road.

On Wednesday, Silk Road was revived by a person styling himself as Dread Pirate Roberts, the handle linked to Ross William Ulbricht who is charged by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation with owning and running the original Silk Road.

The government is also going after illegal sellers on the marketplaces. "Online black market sellers should take note: we aren't just targeting the administrators of these sites, which can pop up again elsewhere," Paul J. Fishman, U.S. attorney for New Jersey district, said in a statement. "If you buy or sell illegal goods on an underground marketplace, law enforcement is watching."

The shutting down of the underground markets has been criticized as being similar to trying to "whack-a-mole," as new markets can come up online as quickly as others are shut down.

Matthew Crisafi, 38, of Hampton, New Hampshire was arrested by special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The owner of an independent trucking company, he was allegedly noticed by HSI agents during an investigation from April of illicit sales activity on Black Market Reloaded.

According to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, a copy of which is available on the website of the Justice Department, an agent of HSI set up an account on Black Market Reloaded in April and identified a posting on a seller's profile page, later identified as Crisafi, which advertised the sale of a number of firearms, including a Smith & Wesson Model Bodyguard .380 caliber semi-automatic handgun.

After online negotiations, the undercover agent agreed to buy the gun for the equivalent of US$3,300 in bitcoin, including shipping the arm to a foreign location, and the bitcoin was put in an escrow account. Crisafi allegedly notified the agent in May that he had shipped the package via U.S. Postal Service and provided the agent with the USPS tracking number for the package, according to the complaint.

 

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