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By Tom Winter and Adiel Kaplan
The Justice Department has shut down a major directory of dark web drug marketplaces and arrested the alleged owners in what federal prosecutors say is a first-of-its-kind operation.
“This is the single most significant law enforcement disruption of the Darknet to date,” said U.S. Attorney Scott Brady at a Wednesday press conference in Pittsburgh, announcing the charges and closing of the site DeepDotWeb.
The so-called “darknet” or “darkweb” is a part of the internet that can only be accessed by specialized software or hardware and contains clandestine websites not found through normal search engines. DeepDotWeb was a regular searchable website that provided a directory with direct access to a host of darknet marketplaces selling illegal narcotics including fentanyl, cocaine, heroin and meth.
The website also provided access to marketplaces for firearms, including assault rifles, and for malicious software and hacking tools.
Alleged owners Tal Prihar, 37, and Michael Phan, 34, both from Israel, were arrested Monday in France and Israel respectively, where they remain in custody. They each face a single count of money laundering conspiracy in the U.S. Phan, who was arrested in Israel, also faces charges there.
Prihar and Phan allegedly received kickback payments through Bitcoin when someone purchased an item on the darknet sites found through the directory, earning more than $15 million in fees since October 2013, according to prosecutors.
These “referral bonuses” allegedly came from darknet marketplaces including AlphaBay Market, Agora Market, Abraxas Market, Dream Market, Valhalla Market, Hansa Market, TradeRoute Market, Dr. D’s, Wall Street Market and Tochka Market.
The closing of a directory like DeepDotWeb is significant, Brady said, because it should stifle hundreds of millions of dollars of illegal purchases.
The government has shut down major darknet drug marketplaces in the past, but they were quickly replaced by new ones. In July 2017, federal authorities in the U.S. shut down the AlphaBay and Hansa drug markets. But within days another darknet market had already picked up most of the listings, highlighting the challenge authorities face. Directories are the way many customers find darknet markeplaces, and the closure of a major directory was a first for the Justice Department.
“This prosecution is the first to attack the infrastructure supporting the Darknet itself,” Brady said.
Ivanka Trump made almost $4 million from Trump Washington hotel last year
Ivanka Trump pulled in almost $4 million in revenue last year from her stake in the family hotel near the White House, documents released by the White House on Friday show.
Trump took in $3,952,480 in revenue from the Trump Old Post Office LLC in 2018, up slightly from the amount she reported in 2017, her financial disclosure form shows.
The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., which is located in the Old Post Office building and opened during the 2016 campaign, has been good for her father’s wallet as well. His disclosure form, which was made public last month, showed the Republican, lobbyist and diplomat hot spot generated revenue of more than $40.8 million, up from $40.4 million in 2017.
The hotel has been a focus of lawsuits against the president charging that Trump is violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause by profiting from his office as diplomats and foreign dignitaries spend big money there.
Ivanka Trump’s interest in the hotel is valued at between $5 million and $25 million.
She also took in $2,036,538 in “salary and severance” from Trump Payroll Corp., the document says.
The financial news wasn’t all good for the first daughter — her fashion line, which she announced she was closing down last year, took in at least $1 million in revenue, down from at least $5 million in her previous annual disclosure.
The bulk of her assets — valued at more than $50 million — are in a trust that holds her business and corporations. It’s generated more than $5 million in revenue each of the last two years.
Her husband and fellow unpaid White House adviser, Jared Kushner, continued to take in millions of dollars from his holdings in real estate, the disclosure form shows.
Kushner’s holdings of apartment buildings through his family real estate firm, Kushner Cos., was the source of much of his income. Westminster Management, the family business overseeing its rental buildings, generated $1.5 million.
The form reported Kushner’s stake in his real estate company Cadre was worth at least $25 million, the same amount he reported last year. He also appears to have cut his debt. He had loans and lines of credit worth at least $27 million at the end of 2018, down from a minimum value of $40 million the previous year.
The ethics form disclosures include very broad ranges, making it impossible to determine the exact value of their assets or income. An analysis of their disclosure forms by Bloomberg put their joint 2018 income at anywhere between $28.8 million and $135.1 million.
The forms still have to be reviewed by the White House Counsel’s Office and the Office of Government Ethics.
Associated Press contributed.
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