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Federal agents arrest 4 men in dark web drug distribution ring

A U.S. attorney for the Central District of California described the international investigation that identified men profiting from online drug sales as an example of the Department of Justice's ability to counteract sophisticated dark web criminals. The investigation resulted in the arrest of four German men and another man from Brazil. They were allegedly involved with a dark web marketplace called Wall Street Market, which authorities described as the second-largest online market for contraband.

According to the criminal complaint filed against the Germans in a federal court, they allegedly served as administrators for the market website. The marketplace connected buyers with sellers of counterfeit goods, narcotics and malicious hacking software. Federal prosecutors said that the men funneled $11 million from the operation into their personal accounts.

Another federal court is handling the case against the Brazilian man. Investigators claim that he acted as the marketplace's dispute mediator when problems arose between vendors and customers. Users worldwide accessed the Wall Street Market through the Tor browser that opens into the dark web. The contraband trafficked at the website included cocaine, stolen data, fake documents, and opioids like fentanyl and oxycodone. Users conducted their transactions in cryptocurrencies. Federal authorities have charged all four men with money laundering and drug distribution.

Penalties for drug trafficking convictions at the federal level could involve lengthy prison sentences. A person arrested during a federal drug investigation might gain insights about a defense strategy by consulting an attorney. Legal advice could allow a person to make an informed choice about accepting a plea bargain or standing trial. An attorney might also discover opportunities to challenge evidence in the case.

Source: NBC Los Angeles, "Three Accused of Operating a Hidden Marketplace for Drugs, Counterfeit Items", May 3, 2019

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