“This was a landmark operation,” said FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe during a press conference at the Department of Justice to announce the results of the case. “We’re talking about multiple servers in different countries, hundreds of millions in cryptocurrency, and a Darknet drug trade that spanned the globe.”
A dedicated team of FBI agents, intelligence analysts, and support personnel worked alongside domestic and international law enforcement partners to shut down the site and stop the flow of illegal goods. “AlphaBay was truly a global site,” said Special Agent Nicholas Phirippidis, one of the FBI investigators who worked on the case from the FBI’s Sacramento Division. “Vendors were shipping illegal items from places all over the world to places all over the world.”
The website, an outgrowth of earlier dark market sites like Silk Road—but much larger—went online in December 2014. It took about six months for the underground marketplace to pick up momentum, Phirippidis said, “but after that it grew exponentially.”
AlphaBay reported that it serviced more than 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors. Around the time of takedown, the site had more than 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals, and more than 100,000 listings for stolen and fraudulent identification documents, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms, and fraudulent services. By comparison, the Silk Road dark market—the largest such enterprise of its kind before it was shut down in 2013—had approximately 14,000 listings.
The operation to seize AlphaBay’s servers was led by the FBI and involved the cooperative efforts of law enforcement agencies in Thailand, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Canada, the United Kingdom, and France, along with the European law enforcement agency Europol.
“Conservatively, several hundred investigations across the globe were being conducted at the same time as a result of AlphaBay’s illegal activities,” Phirippidis said. “It really took an all-hands effort among law enforcement worldwide to deconflict and protect those ongoing investigations.”