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New York Police Detain Alleged Mastermind Behind Darknet Drug Marketplace ‘Incognito Market

Rui-Siang Lin, a 23-year-old Taiwanese citizen, faces allegations of enabling $100 million in transactions, conducted via cryptocurrency, involving illegal narcotics like fentanyl, within an online marketplace.

U.S. authorities have detained and brought charges against a Taiwanese individual for managing the darknet drug platform Incognito Market. Allegedly, the individual, identified as Rui-Siang Lin, 23, operated under the alias “Pharoah” and directed all activities of the market, encompassing employees, suppliers, and clients.

According to prosecutors, Lin exercised complete control over the multimillion-dollar enterprise, from its establishment in October 2020 until its cessation in March of the current year. The accusations assert that Lin facilitated illicit sales exceeding $100 million, primarily conducted in cryptocurrency, involving narcotics such as fentanyl.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams, in a statement on Monday, emphasized the commitment of prosecutors from the Southern District of New York and law enforcement allies to pursue criminal offenders regardless of their operational domain, be it on physical street corners or within the obscure recesses of the internet. Williams underscored that the so-called “dark web” does not provide sanctuary for individuals intending to violate the law.

Lin was apprehended at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport this past Saturday and is scheduled to appear before a magistrate judge in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) today. He faces several serious charges, including engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, narcotics conspiracy, money laundering, and conspiracy to sell adulterated and misbranded medication.

The first charge, often referred to as the “kingpin statute,” carries a mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment. Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the now-defunct Silk Road darknet marketplace, was convicted of the same offense and received a life sentence. The narcotics conspiracy charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum potential sentence of life imprisonment. The remaining charges together carry a combined maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

Allegedly, Lin amassed significant profits from operating Incognito Market, which reportedly received a 5% commission on each transaction. Prosecutors stated that the darknet market operated its own “bank,” providing users with an additional layer of anonymity. Users could deposit cryptocurrency into their accounts, which the site then automatically transferred from buyers to sellers, deducting the fee.

According to the complaint, Lin established and managed Incognito Market while still an undergraduate student at the prestigious National Taiwan University.

In March, Incognito Market abruptly ceased operations following allegations of an exit scam, leaving users unable to retrieve their funds. Subsequently, administrators of the platform purportedly resorted to extortion tactics, targeting vendors. Reports suggest that these administrators demanded varying fees, ranging from $100 to $20,000, based on the size of the vendors’ operations. Failure to comply with these demands allegedly risked the exposure of customers’ data.

Lin, who identifies as a crypto developer and a supporter of privacy coin Monero, disclosed that he conducted a four-day workshop on cybercrime and cryptocurrency. The workshop reportedly involved the participation of 30 police officers and took place at the Saint Lucia Police Academy in early April.

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