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Feds Nab Incognito Market Owner Accused of Running World's Biggest Narcotics Shop

2024-05-21 04:51:02

Federal prosecutors announced charges Monday against a 23-year-old Taiwanese man they allege ran one of the world's largest illegal online drug marketplaces, which they said facilitated more than $100 million in narcotics sales.

Rui-Siang Lin, also known as "Pharoah" and "faro," was arrested at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on May 18 and charged with operating Incognito Market, a so-called dark web service accessible only through encrypted and obfuscated channels that allowed buyers and sellers to conduct illegal transactions anonymously.

In a 15-count indictment unsealed Monday in the Southern District of New York, Lin faces charges including engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, narcotics conspiracy, and money laundering. The most serious charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison.

"As alleged, Rui-Siang Lin operated a sophisticated and dangerous online narcotics marketplace through which he profited millions of dollars at the community's expense," U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a news release. "The dedicated prosecutors from the Southern District of New York and our law enforcement partners will pursue criminal actors regardless of whether they operate on street corners or in the dark corners of the internet."

“Incognito Market” owner arrested for operating one of the largest illegal narcotics marketplaces on the internet

🔗: https://t.co/8DlfZ0M29w pic.twitter.com/8gFleAaie0

— US Attorney SDNY (@SDNYnews) May 20, 2024

According to a criminal complaint, the Incognito Market launched in October 2020 and operated until March 2024, facilitating sales of heroin, cocaine, LSD, MDMA, oxycodone, methamphetamines, ketamine and alprazolam, among other substances. The site "incorporated many features of legitimate e-commerce sites such as branding, advertising, and customer service," the complaint states.

Relying on information from undercover purchases and a search of the site's servers, prosecutors allege the Incognito Market sold more than 364 kilograms of cocaine, 295 kilograms of methamphetamine, and 92 kilograms of MDMA while generating more than $80 million in revenue, of which prosecutors said Lin collected millions in personal profits.

As the site's leader, Lin "supervised all of its operations, including its employees, vendors, and customers, and had ultimate decision-making authority over every aspect of the multimillion-dollar operation," the indictment states.

Incognito Market
A screenshot of the Incognito Market site. Image: U.S. Attorney's Office–SDNY.

In addition to the narcotics charges, Lin faces charges of delivering, distributing and dispensing controlled substances by means of the Internet. Prosecutors said undercover agents successfully purchased methamphetamine, fentanyl, oxycodone and heroin through the site, receiving the substances through the mail.

"The arrest of 'Incognito Market' owner Rui-Siang Lin is a result of the continued working relationship the DEA has with our law enforcement partners in targeting individuals who use the dark web as a marketplace to promote the sale of illicit narcotics," DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank A. Tarentino III said in a statement.

The case is being handled by the Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ryan B. Finkel and Nicholas Chiuchiolo are in charge of the prosecution. Lin was scheduled to appear in Manhattan federal court Monday afternoon.

Editor’s note: This article was written with the assistance of AI. Edited and fact-checked by Ryan Ozawa.