Bitcoin is Playing a Role in Another Darknet Criminal Scheme

Michael Volpe

After spending a decade in finance, Michael Volpe has been a freelance investigative journalist since 2009. His work has been published locally in the Chicago Reader, Chicago Crusader, Chicago Heights Patch, and New City. Nationally, Volpe's work has appeared in a wide variety of publications including the Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller, Crime Magazine, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Newsletter, and Counter Punch. Volpe has been recognized by whistleblowers as leading the charge in getting their stories out. His first book Prosecutors Gone Wild was published in October 2012, his second book The Definitive Dossier of PTSD in Whistleblowers was published in February 2013 and his third book Bullied to Death was published in August 2015.

Darknet Criminal Scheme

Bitcoin is Playing a Role in Another Darknet Criminal Scheme

October 17, 2019

The United States Department of Justice announced the takedown of a global pornography ring using the darknet. 

Here is part of their press release:

Darknet Criminal Scheme

“Jong Woo Son, 23, a South Korean national, was indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia for his operation of Welcome To Video, the largest child sexual exploitation market by volume of content. The nine-count indictment was unsealed today, along with a parallel civil forfeiture action. 

Son has also been charged and convicted in South Korea and is currently in custody, serving his sentence in South Korea. An additional 337 site users residing in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington State and Washington, D.C. as well as the United Kingdom, South Korea, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Czech Republic, Canada, Ireland, Spain, Brazil and Australia have been arrested and charged.”

The release continued, “A forfeiture complaint was also unsealed today.  The complaint alleges that law enforcement was able to trace payments of bitcoin to the Darknet site by following the flow of funds on the blockchain. The virtual currency accounts identified in the complaint were allegedly used by 24 individuals in five countries to fund the website and promote the exploitation of children.  The forfeiture complaint seeks to recover these funds and, ultimately through the restoration process, return the illicit funds to victims of the crime.”

The announcement harkens back to the takedown of Ross William Ulbricht. 

Ulbricht operated the darknet internet marketplace, which he called The Silk Road; The Silk Road sold a variety of illegal goods like drugs, fake IDs, weapons, etc. 

Like with this pornography ring, The Silk Road operated using Bitcoin, precisely because Bitcoin’s distributed ledger technology allows for greater anonymity and is much more difficult to trace. 

Nouriel Roubini, called Dr. Doom for his accurate prediction of the 2008 financial crisis, is one of the chief critics of Bitcoin and crypto in general. 

Once calling it “the mother of all scams,” he also said, “Bitcoin’s only real use has been to facilitate illegal activities such as drug transactions, tax evasion, avoidance of capital controls, or money laundering,” referring to Ulbricht and other criminal schemes. 

The darknet is, “a network, built on top of the internet, that is purposefully hidden, meaning it has been designed specifically for anonymity. Unlike the deep web, the darknet is only accessible with special tools and software – browsers and other protocol beyond direct links or credentials,” according to the website Dark Owl

Its use, combined with the anonymity of cryptocurrency, presents an inviting target for high tech criminals using the latest technology to avoid detection. 

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