After mysteriously going dark for a number of days, dark web marketplace AlphaBay shut down following an apparent raid by international authorities, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Authorities in the United States, Canada and Thailand all reportedly took coordinated action against operators of AlphaBay—an anonymous, online marketplace where users could buy and sell a number of illegal goods including drugs, credit card information, guns and other goods or services.
The action by law enforcement led to the arrest of Alexandre Cazes, the alleged founder and operator of AlphaBay. Cazes, a Canadian citizen, was taken into custody in Thailand on July 5 and was expected to be extradited to the U.S. to face criminal charges. Cazes died by suicide on July 13 when he was discovered hanged in his cell on July 13.
Cazes had been living in Thailand for about eight years at the time of his arrest. When he was taken into custody, police reported also seizing four Lamborghinis and three houses worth nearly $12 million.
The same day Cazes was arrested in Thailand, members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s (RCMP) high-technology crime unit acted on search warrants to carry out two raids on residences and one on a business in Quebec, Canada.
The raids, along with the arrest and death of the primary operator of the site, appears to spell the end for AlphaBay. The dark web marketplace was considered the the most prominent illicit trading site since the Silk Road went offline in 2013.
Suspicions about the future of AlphaBay started to rise July 4 when the site went offline without any prior notification. The site remained essentially inaccessible for days after the fact, prompting some users to speculate about an exit scheme.
Exit schemes, in which an operator suddenly closes shop and takes all of the money buyers and vendors have in their accounts with them, are not uncommon on the dark web.
Earlier this year, a market called Outlaw closed its doors due to an alleged hack but many have suggested the owners of the site simply pulled up the stakes and took the money of users with them. Likewise, the Evolution marketplace disappeared in 2015 and site owners took with them about $12 million worth of user money.
It seemed unlikely to many that AlphaBay would utilize such a scheme simply due to the sheer size of the service. The largest market on the dark web, AlphaBay was believed to do between $600,000 and $800,000 in transactions per day.
The first sign that AlphaBay may have been the target of law enforcement came shortly before the sudden down time, when a prominent AlphaBay vendor was arrested and willingly handed over his account to law enforcement.
The vendor—based in Portland, Ore.—was found in possession of more than 10 pounds of marijuana and 500 grams of MDMA. He had reportedly conducted 1,684 sales on AlphaBay that grossed more than $1 million. The vendor handed over credentials to a secondary account, which law enforcement may have used to access the site.