A dark web drug lord will serve seven years in prison for selling thousands of doses of fentanyl, many of which were exchanged for cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin.
Authorities noted Matthew Witters, of Seattle, was a leading seller of fentanyl on prolific dark web markets AlphaBay and Dream Market between 2015 and 2017.
Witters was reportedly caught after his contact information and dark web nicknames were found in houses linked to drug trafficking in California and Oklahoma.
A search warrant led authorities to a safe deposit box Witters had leased in a bank. It stored more than $165,000 in cash, a Glock handgun, suspected controlled substances, and mailing labels.
Upon his arrest in December 2018, police seized $1.1 million in cryptocurrency, cash, and “other funds” — all proceeds of his drug trafficking.
Bitcoin was the currency of choice on AlphaBay and Dream Market
The marketplaces that supported Witters, AlphaBay and Dream Market, were huge. AlphaBay was heralded as the largest underground market the dark web had ever seen, and became known as the “Amazon of the dark web” for its reliability and efficiency.
When AlphaBay went dark in July 2017, many speculated its administrators had “exit scammed” with a ton of Bitcoin, but the US attorney general later revealed an international effort dubbed Operation Bayonet had dismantled it.
Hard Fork reported in July that US authorities had charged an alleged AlphaBay moderator over his role in the organization. Police say he’d been paid in Bitcoin for settling disputes between buyers and sellers, operating as a scam watcher, and monitoring fraud attempts on AlphaBay users.
After AlphaBay’s closure, Dream Market rose to become the dark web‘s biggest marketplace. It closed down earlier this year under mysterious circumstances. A running theory goes that it had been secretly maintained by the FBI for months, waiting to catch its elusive owner, only known as Speedsteppers.
Stolen credit cards, cyber-crime kits, firearms, narcotics and other illegal were peddled on the sites in exchange for Bitcoin (and later Monero).