ST. GEORGE — Authorities have shut down an illicit internet marketplace where a Park City teenager bought drugs responsible for his classmate’s fatal overdose, the U.S. Department of Justice said at a press conference Thursday, noting it as the “largest dark net marketplace takedown in history” and “one of the most important criminal investigations of the year.”
AlphaBay, described by the Justice Department as the largest criminal marketplace on the internet, operated for more than two years and was used to sell illegal weapons, stolen identities, child pornography and large amounts of deadly drugs, officials said.
The investigation into AlphaBay revealed that there have been multiple drug overdose deaths across the country attributed to purchases on the site, including 13-year-old Grant Seaver, of Park City, who overdosed on a synthetic opioid known as “pink” purchased on AlphaBay.
Seaver and his 13-year-old friend Ryan Ainsworth were found dead last year after taking the drug that was easily purchased online.
At the time of the site takedown, Sessions said there were more than 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals on AlphaBay, accounting for more than two-thirds of all listings on AlphaBay.
“Among other challenges, our great country is currently in the midst of the deadliest drug crisis in our history,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at the conference. “One American now dies of a drug overdose every 11 minutes and more than 2 million Americans are addicted to prescription painkillers. Every day, as a result of drug abuse, American families are being bankrupted, friendships broken and promising lives cut short.”
Drug traffickers have chosen to exploit this epidemic of addiction with some of the most prolific drug suppliers utilizing the dark web, which is a collection of hidden websites that can only be accessed by users who mask their identity and location, Sessions said.
In June, federal authorities announced an indictment in California of a suspected administrator of the site, 25-year-old Alexandre Cazes aka Alpha02 and Admin, a Canadian citizen residing in Thailand.
Cazes was arrested earlier this month by Thai authorities on behalf of the United States for his role as the creator and administrator of AlphaBay. On July 12, Cazes reportedly took his own life while in custody in Thailand.
Cazes was charged in the indictment with one count of conspiracy to engage in racketeering, one count of conspiracy to distribute narcotics, six counts of distribution of narcotics, one count of conspiracy to commit identity theft, four counts of unlawful transfer of false identification documents, one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud, one count of trafficking in device making equipment, and one count of money laundering conspiracy.
“The Department will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict and incarcerate criminals, drug traffickers and their enablers wherever they are,” Sessions said. “We will use every tool we have to stop criminals from exploiting vulnerable people and sending so many Americans to an early grave.”
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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