SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — Hydra Market, the world’s largest and longest-running darknet market, was seized by U.S. and international law enforcement agencies on Tuesday.
Hydra accounted for 80 percent of all darknet market-related cryptocurrency transactions last year, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Since 2015, the marketplace allegedly received $5.2 billion in cryptocurrency.
Hydra servers and cryptocurrency wallets were seized Tuesday in Germany by the German Federal Criminal Police, also known as the “Bundeskriminalamt,” in coordination with U.S. law enforcement.
In conjunction with the shutdown of Hydra, criminal charges were filed against 30-year-old Dmitry Olegovich Pavlov, a resident of Russia, for conspiracy to distribute narcotics and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Robert Leach, a prosecutor who successfully prosecuted Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes for wire fraud and conspiracy, will be one of four attorneys prosecuting the Hydra case. Leach is an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California.
According to an indictment, Hydra was an online criminal marketplace that enabled users to buy and sell illicit goods and services, including illegal drugs, stolen financial information, fraudulent identification documents, and money laundering and mixing services, anonymously and outside the reach of law enforcement.
Transactions on Hydra were conducted in cryptocurrency.
“The darknet has been a key online marketplace for the sale of deadly drugs worldwide,” said Anne Milgram of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“Criminals on the darknet hide behind the illusion of anonymity, but DEA and our partners across the globe are watching,” Milgram said.
“The dismantling of the Hydra Market, the dark web’s largest supplier of illicit goods and services, sends a message to these electronic criminal kingpins that think they can operate with impunity,” said Special Agent in Charge Anthony Salisbury of Homeland Security Investigations.
According to an indictment, vendors on Hydra could create accounts on the site to advertise their illegal products, and buyers could create accounts to view and purchase the vendors’ products.
Hydra vendors offered a variety of illicit drugs for sale, including cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, and other opioids., investigators said. The vendors openly advertised their drugs on Hydra, typically including photographs and a description of the controlled substance.
Numerous vendors also sold hacking tools and hacking services through Hydra, investigators said. Hacking vendors commonly offered to illegally access online accounts of the buyer’s choosing.
Hydra vendors also offered an array of money laundering and so-called “cash-out” services, which allowed Hydra users to convert their bitcoin (BTC) into a variety of forms of currency.
Starting in or about November 2015, Pavlov is alleged to have operated a company, Promservice Ltd., also known as All Wheel Drive and 4x4host.ru, that administered Hydra’s servers (Promservice).
During that time, Pavlov, through his company Promservice, administered Hydra’s servers, which allowed the market to operate as a platform used by thousands of drug dealers to distribute large quantities of illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services to thousands of buyers, and to launder billions of dollars derived from these unlawful transactions, according to the indictment.
“The dark web is not a place criminals can operate with impunity or hide from U.S. law enforcement,” said Stephanie Hinds, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California.