Cybercrime , Fraud Management & Cybercrime , Government

Feds Say $100M Dark Web Drug Kingpin Arrested at JFK Airport

Taiwanese Rui-Siang Lin, 23, Accused of Operating Notorious Online Drug Bazaar
Feds Say $100M Dark Web Drug Kingpin Arrested at JFK Airport
Home page of Incognito website (Image: DOJ)

Federal authorities arrested the 23-year-old Taiwanese man suspected of operating one of the most notorious dark web narcotics marketplaces on Saturday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

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U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland described Rui-Siang Lin, also known as "Pharoah," as the alleged "architect of Incognito, a $100 million dark web scheme to traffic deadly drugs to the United States and around the world." An indictment unsealed Monday said Lin's darknet marketplace has sold over $100 million in narcotics - "including hundreds of kilograms of cocaine and methamphetamines" - since it was first formed in October 2020.

Incognito Market was accessible through a Tor web browser on the dark web and allowed vendors and buyers to remain anonymous from each other while facilitating drug sales and other financial transactions. The marketplace launched a mass-extortion campaign in recent months and threatened to publish the transaction and chat records of its registered vendors and buyers who failed to make payments of up to $20,000 by the end of May.

The marketplace also allegedly initiated an "exit scam" on its members in which users were reportedly prevented from withdrawing funds from their cryptocurrency accounts.

Lin is expected to appear in court Monday and potentially faces life in prison. He is charged with engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, narcotics conspiracy, money laundering and conspiracy to sell adulterated and misbranded medication.

Undercover law enforcement agents obtained tablets that they claimed were be oxycodone in November 2023. The indictment says testing indicated those pills were actually fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be lethal in small doses.

The indictment details how Incognito Market operated as a digital bazaar, where unique vendors advertised their products on the platform after registering and paying an admission fee. That revenue funded the marketplace's operations, according to the charges, paying for "employee" salaries and computer servers.

The indictment also alleges that Lin supervised the entire market's operations "and had ultimate decision-making authority over every aspect of the multimillion-dollar operation."

Lin's case is being handled by the U.S. Justice Department's Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.

"The long arm of the law extends to the dark web," Garland said. "We will bring to justice those who try to hide their crimes there."

About the Author

Chris Riotta

Chris Riotta

Managing Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Riotta is a journalist based in Washington, D.C. He earned his master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he served as 2021 class president. His reporting has appeared in NBC News, Nextgov/FCW, Newsweek Magazine, The Independent and more.

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