US authorities have seized more than US$20m ($27.1m) in cryptocurrencies and laid charges against 35 alleged vendors on darknet sites as part of a year-long, nationwide sting.
Five government agencies including Justice, Homeland Security, Drug Enforcement and the Secret Service announced details of the coordinated - and ongoing - investigation today.
It marks the “first nationwide undercover action to target vendors of illicit goods on the darknet”, and saw special agents pose as money launderers on darknet sites, “exchanging US currency for virtual currency.”
The operation allowed investigators to identify “more than 35 darknet vendors”, who were arrested by federal law enforcement.
However, agencies said that “more than 50 darknet vendor accounts were identified and attributed to the real individuals selling illicit goods on darknet market sites such as Silk Road, AlphaBay, Hansa, Dream, and others.”
Most of the cases and seizures appeared to be drug related, though authorities said they had also confiscated an arsenal of weapons as part of their raids.
Most of the money seized was in cryptocurrencies.
Authorities said they had seized “nearly 2000 Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies, with an approximate value of more than US$20 million”, along with bitcoin mining equipment.
They also found “more than $3.6 million in US currency and gold bars”.
“Criminals who think that they are safe on the darknet are wrong,” US deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein said in a statement.
“We can expose their networks, and we are determined to bring them to justice.”
Authorities worldwide have increasingly targeted dark web marketplaces and either shut them down or taken them over to try and identify sellers.