Alleged AlphaBay moderator faces 20 years in jail on racketeering charges

An individual alleged to have been a moderator at AlphaBay, once one of the world’s leading crypto-powered black markets, is facing up to 20 years behind bars, as law enforcement agencies continue to circle.

Bryan Connor Herrell, alleged to have been a moderator operating under the names “Penissmith” and “Botah,” has been charged with conspiring to engage in a racketeer corrupt organization, as a result of his implied association with the platform, the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of California said in a statement.

The charges against the 24-year-old are the latest enforcement action as part of Operation Bayonet, which took specific aim at the dark net platform.

Renowned for the trade in drugs, weapons and other illegal transactions, markets like AlphaBay were and continue to be powered largely by SegWitCoin (BTC) transactions, with both customers and dealers using the cryptocurrency to handle payments pseudonymously.

While the platform was shut down by the FBI as part of a round of enforcement action, some of the individuals involved are still to face justice for their actions and involvement.

According to documents filed in court, Herrell was engaged in mediation between users on the site, and was often seen to be behind attempts to cut fraud and scams between AlphaBay users.

For his services, Herrell is reported to have been paid in BTC, despite the high transaction fees and inefficient payment times, as compensation for his role in the operation.

The news follows similar enforcement action against the site’s Canadian founder, Alexandre Cazes, back in 2017.

Authorities arrests Cazes at his home in Thailand, working with local law enforcement to deliver Cazes on behalf of the FBI and DEA. Authorities were able to gain access to an unencrypted laptop, which allowed them to glean more information about the operation and the individuals involved.

The arrest of Herrell is the latest example of an individual close to dark web markets being taken to task. Perhaps the most high profile is the founder of Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, who was taken into custody in 2013.

Law enforcement agents have since taken action to bring several other dark web marketplaces offline, as well as pursuing those involved personally. With the potential for 20 years in jail, it remains to be seen whether the authorities get the full backing of the U.S. courts.

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