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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,” U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said at a news conference Wednesday in Pittsburgh to announce the charges and the closing of the site DeepDotWeb.

The so-called darknet or dark web is a part of the internet that can be accessed only 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.

The alleged owners, Tal Prihar, 37, and Michael Phan, 34, both from Israel, were arrested Monday, Prihar in France and Phan in Israel, where they remain in custody. They each face a single count of money laundering conspiracy in the U.S. Phan also faces charges in Israel.

Deep Dot Web prior to Department of Justice seizure.Department of Justice

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 in 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 marketplaces, 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.



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Matt Hancock withdraws: Why has Matt Hancock QUIT the Tory leadership race?

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MATT HANCOCK has officially withdrawn from the Tory leadership race after receiving the second lowest number of votes in the first round of ballots on Thursday. But why did he quit the race?

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After deaths of children, Democrats push bill on how border agency should treat migrants

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A congressman who has worked as an emergency room doctor is pushing border officers to prevent deaths of more migrant children in their custody with some basic health and medical standards ranging from providing adequate drinking water to ensuring access to emergency medical care.

Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., introduced legislation requiring Customs and Border Protection to conduct health screenings with translators less than 12 hours after migrant adults are initially detained and under three hours for those considered more vulnerable, including children, elderly and pregnant women. The legislation also calls for providing basic access to emergency care, medications and life-saving medical equipment.

The bill, the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act, also requires CBP migrants at least one gallon of drinking water per day.

The legislation also outlines standards for providing nutrition, sanitation and shelter that’s consistent with international humanitarian norms.

“These standards are consistent with the humanitarian principles that ensure the basic conditions for a life with dignity,” said Ruiz, who also provided emergency medical care in Mexico, El Salvador and Haiti and helped with disaster planning in Serbia.

Ruiz began drafting the bill following the death of Jakelin Caal, a 7-year-old from Guatemala who died while in CBP custody.

“Recent migrant child deaths underscore the need to move forward this bill,” Dr. Olanrewaju Falusi of the American Academy of Pediatrics said during a press conference in Washington.

At least seven migrant children, including Jakelin, are known to have died since last year while in U.S. immigration custody.

Leah Chavla, an international human rights lawyer and policy adviser at the Women’s Refugee Commission, has previously said that CBP already has a set of guidelines in place that outline the conditions and resources the agency has to provide to children and other migrants in its custody.

But unlike laws, guidelines are not binding.

“It’s important to have a critical look at what’s going on and how the guidelines can be made binding,” Chavla said.

Ruiz and other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have been working toward a bill for binding oversight since Jakelin’s death.

“Conditions seem to be getting worse and there has been a level of cruelty to the way this administration has gone about handling asylum-seekers,” Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas, the caucus’ chairman said. “I hope that the House of Representatives and the Senate will send a strong message that the United States, the strongest, most prosperous nation on Earth, is one that would treat humanely those folks who come here seeking refuge.”

CBP took into custody almost 133,000 migrants who entered the U.S. without authorization last month. Nearly 64 percent of them were family units with children, according to CBP numbers.

Both figures have continued to rise each month since January. Although apprehensions are still well under the historic highs of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the majority of migrants then were adult men from Mexico — not asylum-seeking families with children.

“CBP must adapt to the global humanitarian challenges and realities at our doorstep,” Ruiz said.

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Matt Hancock votes: Where could Matt Hancock's 20 votes go? Will Hunt or Javid get a boost

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MATT HANCOCK is the latest Conservative MP to drop out of the race to become Tory party leader and prime minister, just one day after he came sixth in the first ballot of the party’s MPs. But which hopeful will get his votes now?

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