A Colorado man who worked as a moderator on the infamous AlphaBay marketplace is facing two decades behind bars after pleading guilty to racketeering charges this week.
Bryan Connor Herrell, 25, worked on the now-shuttered dark web site settling disputes between buyers and sellers of illicit goods, according to a Department of Justice (DoJ) notice.
Known by the online pseudonyms “Penissmith” and “Botah,” he’s said to have settled over 20,000 such disputes on the site whilst also monitoring transactions for signs of fraud.
It appears Herrell’s identity may have become known to police after FBI, DEA and Royal Thai Police officers raided the home of AlphaBay founder Alexandre Cazes in 2017. At the time they seized an open laptop which contained “the passwords/passkeys for the AlphaBay website, the AlphaBay servers, and other online identities associated with AlphaBay.”
While Cazes subsequently died in prison, of suspected suicide, investigations into his former colleagues continue.
AlphaBay is thought to have been the world’s largest dark web marketplace of its kind when it stepped up to fill the gap left by Silk Road.
However, it suffered the same fate as its predecessor after police managed to infiltrate and shut it down. Announced alongside the takedown of Hansa in July 2017, the site is said to have reached over 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors.
According to Europol, the site hosted over 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and over 100,000 for stolen and fake ID documents, malware, hacking tools, counterfeit goods and more.
The policing organization estimated that at least $1bn flowed through the marketplace since it was launched in 2014.
Herrell was paid in Bitcoin for his efforts, and likely received a handsome remuneration. However, after he pleaded guilty to conspiring to engage in a “racketeer-influenced corrupt organization,” he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.