An Israeli national has pleaded guilty to his role in operating DeepDotWeb (DDW), a website that functioned as a gateway to various Dark Web marketplaces, the U.S. Justice Department announced on Wednesday.
The man, Tal Prihar, 37, together with co-defendant Michael Phan, 34, of Israel, owned and operated DeepDotWeb (DDW) between October 2013 and May 2019, when the website was seized by authorities.
DDW provided information on Dark Web marketplaces, including interviews and reviews on portals where visitors could purchase illegal firearms, malicious software, financial data, drugs, and other contraband.
According to court documents, the website generated revenue through an affiliate marketing model: DDW received more than $8 million in kickback payments from the Dark Web marketplaces that it was advertising and directly linking to.
Payments were received in virtual currency and amounted to roughly 8,155 Bitcoin (worth approximately $8.4 million at the time of transactions). Prihar would then transfer funds to other Bitcoin wallets and to bank accounts opened in the name of shell companies.
Prihar, who admitted in court to charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, is scheduled for sentencing on August 2. The charges carry a maximum prison penalty of 20 years.
“Tal Prihar served as a broker for illegal Darknet marketplaces — helping such marketplaces find customers for fentanyl, firearms, and other dangerous contraband — and profited from the illegal business that ensued,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.