Governance, Risk and Compliance

Dark web drug market suspect arrested, extradited to U.S.

The alleged kingpin of a multi-million-dollar dark web drugs marketplace that was taken down in a major international law enforcement operation has been extradited from Austria to face charges in the U.S.

U.S. and European authorities say Serbian and Croatian citizen Milomir Desnica, 33, ran Monopoly Market, a sophisticated, high-turnover operation selling opioids, stimulants, psychedelics, prescription medications and other drugs.

After Desnica’s server was seized and the marketplace taken offline in late 2021, the data recovered resulted in an international dragnet, Operation SpecTor, that led to the arrest of 288 drug manufacturers, online distributors, buyers, re-sellers, and users. Coordinated by the FBI and Europol, the operation involved dozens of law enforcement agencies from the U.S., Brazil and seven European countries.

In a statement announcing Desnica’s extradition, the Justice Department said U.S. agents covertly placed orders with a range of vendors using Monopoly Marketplace to selling narcotics. The operation included numerous orders, including more than 100 grams of methamphetamine.

In December 2021, in a coordinated operation with Germany and Finish authorities, the server hosting Monopoly Market was seized and taken offline. Agents analyzed the devise and recovered records, including details of drug sales made through the site, related cryptocurrency payments, an online forum associated with the platform and commission payment invoices sent to vendors.

“Through extensive analysis of these records, Desnica was identified as the operator of Monopoly,” the DoJ said.

“In November 2022, in coordination with the Austrian Fugitive Active Search Team (FAST) and the Public Prosecutors Office Vienna, Desnica was located and arrested in Austria. Law enforcement conducted a search of his residence and vehicle, seizing electronics and cash.”

Desnica was indicted by a grand jury in the District Court for the District of Columbia on July 26 last year. According to the indictment, he faces charges of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. An arraignment date is yet to be set.

According to the Justice Department, Desnica set up Monopoly Market in 2019. Vendors had to complete an application which included providing descriptions of the drugs they wanted to sell, photographic evidence of their inventory, and an agreement to pay Desnica a sales commission before they were allowed to sell drugs on the site.

It also alleged that he used at least two cryptocurrency exchanges to launder the proceeds made from running the site and traded crypto for fiat currency through Serbian-based peer-to-peer traders. If convicted, Desnica faces a maximum life sentence on the drugs charge and a maximum 20 years in prison on the conspiracy charge.

As well as the arrest of almost 300 people linked to the sale and purchase of narcotics through Desnica’s dark web site, Operation SpecTor resulted in authorities seizing 1,875 pounds of drugs and more than $50 million in cash and cryptocurrency.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the operation seized more funds and resulted in more arrests than any previous coordinated international action led by the Justice Department against drug traffickers on the dark web.

Earlier this year the DoJ led a coordinated international operation that brought down Genesis Market, the largest dark web marketplace for stolen credentials. Last year, together with German authorities, the DoJ seized Hydra Market, the world’s largest and longest-running illegal marketplace.

Simon Hendery

Simon Hendery is a freelance IT consultant specializing in security, compliance, and enterprise workflows. With a background in technology journalism and marketing, he is a passionate storyteller who loves researching and sharing the latest industry developments.

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