On January 26, the Department of Justice announced that Tal Prihar, an Israeli national residing in Brazil, was sentenced to 97 months in prison for operating DeepDotWeb (“DDW”). DDW was a news site dedicated to events surrounding the dark web, but also connected Internet users with “Darknet marketplaces” where one could purchase illegal firearms, malware, hacking tools, stolen financial data, and illicit drugs such as heroin and fentanyl. 

According to court documents, Prihar and his co-defendant Michael Phan came to own DDW in October 2013. The website was seized in April of 2019 for receiving money for posting links to certain darknet markets. In March of 2021, Prihar pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering. 

The government discovered evidence that Prihar and Phan received kickback payments from the illegal marketplaces in the form of virtual currency, including approximately 8,155 bitcoins (valued at $8.4 million at the time of the transactions) for providing links to their marketplaces on DDW. The DOJ reported that, in order to conceal the nature and source of the illegal kickback payments, “Prihar transferred the payments from his DDW bitcoin wallet to other bitcoin accounts and to bank accounts he controlled in the names of shell companies.” While Prihar has agreed to forfeit $8,414,173, Phan remains abroad and is currently undergoing extradition proceedings in Israel.

The investigation and prosecution of this case was a combined effort by the DOJ, French authorities, law enforcement at the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, IRS-Criminal Investigation, Brazilian Federal Police Cyber Division, Israeli National Police, Dutch National Police, Europol Darkweb Team, Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany, National Crime Agency in the United Kingdom, and notably the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.

The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent clients of all types and sizes in connection with money laundering investigations.  If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.