Founder of Insanely Big Narcotic Marketplace Arrested

Mike Leslie
May 22, 2024

Federal authorities have arrested a 23-year-old Taiwanese national for running an online market that sold $100 million worth of illicit narcotics, including fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, LSD, and ketamine.

Inputs that matter: The authorities said that for almost four years, Rui-Siang Lin operated and owned the Incognito Market, an online marketplace on the dark web that users worldwide visited to buy and sell illegal narcotics.

  • It opened in October 2020 and, as KrebsOnSecurity reported, closed last March when its operators extorted buyers and sellers of fees ranging from $100 to $2,000 in exchange for not revealing text messages and transaction records showing their participation in the marketplace.
  • In the 41 months that Incognito Market was open, it facilitated the sale of more than $100 million of narcotics.
  • By June 2023, the site generated sales of $5 million per month.

The opportunity: The platform accepted Bitcoin or the privacy-focused cryptocurrency Monero for drug transactions, taking a fee of 5% from purchases.

  • Incognito Market enabled the sale of 364 kilograms of cocaine, 295 kilograms of methamphetamine, and 92 kilograms of MDMA and other drugs, taking a fee of 5% of the narcotic's purchase price.

Zoom in: To facilitate the marketplace, the site established its own bank, which allowed users to deposit cryptocurrency into their accounts.

  • Once a transaction occurred, funds were transferred from a buyer's account into the seller's, minus a 5 percent fee collected by Incognito Market.
  • The arrangement allowed buyers and sellers to remain anonymous to one another.

Between the lines: Throughout its history, Incognito generated sales of $83.6 million, which earned Lin and his associates roughly $4.2 million from commission and admission fees.

  • "For nearly four years, Rui-Siang Lin allegedly operated 'Incognito Market,' one of the largest online platforms for narcotics sales, conducting $100 million in illicit narcotics transactions and reaped millions of dollars in personal profits," James Smith, the assistant director in charge of the FBI New York field office, said in a release.
  • "Under the promise of anonymity, Lin's alleged operation offered the purchase of lethal drugs and fraudulent prescription medication on a global scale."

Follow the money: "Listings included offerings of prescription medication that was advertised as authentic but was not," federal officials said.

  • "For example, in November 2023, an undercover law enforcement agent received several tablets that purported to be oxycodone, which were purchased on Incognito Market. Testing on those tablets revealed that they were not authentic oxycodone at all and were, in fact, fentanyl pills."
  • If convicted, Lin faces a mandatory minimum penalty of life in prison for engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise.
  • He could also receive a maximum penalty of life in prison for narcotics conspiracy, a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for money laundering, and a maximum penalty of five years in prison for conspiracy to sell adulterated and misbranded medication.

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  1. https://www.theblock.co/post/295669/feds-nabs-dark-web-drug-marketplace-transacting-80-million-in-cryptocurrency
  2. https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2024/05/23-year-old-man-accused-of-running-100-million-online-narcotics-marketplace/