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Incognito Market dark web drug trafficker arrested in US; faces life in prison

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Rui-Siang Lin from Taiwan, known by the aliases ‘Pharoah’ and ‘Faro,’ was arrested at John F. Kennedy Airport on May 18, 2024. Lin, 23, is accused of operating Incognito Market, an infamous dark web marketplace that facilitated anonymous transactions of illegal drugs worldwide.

Lin is charged with multiple offences, including running a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiring to distribute narcotics, money laundering, and conspiring to sell mislabeled and counterfeit medication. Conviction on these charges could result in a life sentence.

“Lin had ultimate control over more than one thousand vendors (those who sell narcotics on Incognito Market), more than 200,000 customers (those who buy narcotics on Incognito Market), and at least one other employee who assisted Lin in the management of the site. Lin also implemented policies for the site, controls its servers, and its funds,” said the indictment.

The arrest resulted from a collaborative effort involving multiple law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, DEA, HSI, FDA-OCI, and NYPD. This investigation is part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) initiative, which focuses on dismantling major criminal organisations. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ryan B. Finkel and Nicholas Chiuchiolo from the Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit are prosecuting the case.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice

Incognito Market was an online narcotics bazaar that began operations in October 2020. It was designed to mimic legitimate e-commerce sites and featured a user-friendly interface with branding, advertising, and customer service.

Users could log in with a unique username and password to browse thousands of listings for illegal drugs, including heroin, cocaine, LSD, MDMA, oxycodone, methamphetamines, ketamine, and alprazolam.

However, many of these substances were misbranded, with some, such as purported oxycodone tablets, being found to contain deadly fentanyl.

Each vendor on Incognito Market was required to register and pay an admission fee. Vendors paid a 5% commission on each transaction, which funded the marketplace’s operations, including employee salaries and server costs.

Lin allegedly reaped millions of dollars in profits from these transactions. The marketplace also featured its own ‘bank’ system, allowing users to deposit cryptocurrency into personal accounts and conduct transactions anonymously.

“For nearly four years, Rui-Siang Lin allegedly operated ‘Incognito Market,’ one of the largest online platforms for narcotics sales, conducting $100 million in illicit narcotics transactions and reaping millions of dollars in personal profits,” said James Smith, FBI Assistant Director in Charge.

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Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: kumarhemant@pm.me

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