Owner of Dark Web News site sentenced to 8 years in prison for money laundering

Tal Prihar, the former operator of dark web indexing site DeepDotWeb, was sentenced to eight years in prison on Tuesday for money laundering.

Since 2013, Prihar (37) and co-accused Michael Phan (34) owned and operated DeepDotWeb (DDW), a news site that also connected internet users to darknet marketplaces where they could buy illegal malware, weapons fire, stolen financial data, hacking tools, fentanyl, heroin and other illicit materials. Both Prihar and Phan are Israeli citizens.

For linking users to illegal darknet markets, Prihar and Phan allegedly received around $8.4 million in Bitcoin bribes. To hide the sources of these payments, Prihar converted them into fiat currency and laundered them through other Bitcoins and bank accounts he controlled on behalf of front companies.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in coordination with police from Israel, Brazil, France, Germany and the Netherlands, seized the DeepDotWeb domain in May 2019, reports The Verge. The case was investigated by the FBI Field Office in Pittsburgh.

Prihar, who was arrested in Brazil, pleaded guilty in March 2021, while Phan remains in Israel and is currently facing extradition proceedings, the US Department of Justice said.

A District Court judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania handed down Prihar’s sentence, ordering him to confiscate $8.4 million in cash, his ASUS laptop, iPhone, and accounts on various cryptocurrency exchanges such as Kraken, Binance and OKCoin. Prihar has already agreed to waive the amount.

With this conviction, the US court is likely to set a precedent that not only darknet operators, but also those who facilitate access to these markets, are likely to face the law. If a website negotiates user access to contraband and receives payment for it, it is likely to fly under the FBI’s radar.

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