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Darknet operator ‘Incognito Market’ arrested

23 year old Rui-Siang Lin, online also known as Pharaoh, was arrested at John F. Kennedy Airport on May 18.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) accuses him of running and owning ‘Incognito Market’’, an online dark web narcotics marketplace that enabled its users to buy and sell illegal narcotics anonymously. If found guilty, he faces life in prison.

According to the Department of Justice, Lin founded Incognito Market in October 2020. Authorities closed the dark web market in March 2024. In its lifespan of almost four years, Incognito Market sold more than 100 million dollars in illegal narcotics and misbranded prescription medication, such as cocaine, heroin, LSD, MDMA, methamphetamines, oxycodone, ketamine and alprazolam.

Incognito Market was globally available through the dark web. The marketplace was designed to foster seamless narcotics transactions across the world. It incorporated many features of legitimate e-commerce businesses, including branding, advertising and customer service. Once logged in, users were able to search thousands of listings for narcotics of their choosing.

To become a seller on Incognito Market, a vendor had to register with the site and pay an admission fee. In exchange for listing and selling drugs and narcotics, vendors had to pay a 5 percent commission on all sellings. That money was used for paying employees and buying and maintaining computer servers.

Using his online alias Pharaoh, Rui-Siang Lin supervised all activities and had ultimate decision-making authority over every aspect of the multimillion-dollar operation. To facilitate financial transactions, Incognito Market had its own bank, which allowed users to deposit cryptocurrency on the site into their own bank accounts. The bank made sure buyers and sellers remained anonymous from each other.

‘There’s no operating outside the law’

“Drug traffickers who think they can operate outside the law on the dark web are wrong. The long arm of the law extends to the dark web, and we will bring to justice those who try to hide their crimes there”, said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland on the matter.

“Under the promise of anonymity, Lin’s alleged operation offered the purchase of lethal drugs and fraudulent prescription medication on a global scale. The FBI is committed to targeting and dismantling all criminal enterprises, especially those whose leaders distribute illegal substances on the dark web”, Assistant Director in Charge James Smith of the FBI New York Field Office added.

If convicted, Lin faces a mandatory minimum penalty of life in prison for ‘engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise’. He’s also looking at a life sentence for ‘narcotics conspiracy’, 20 years in prison for money laundering and a penalty of 5 years in prison for conspiracy to sell adulterated and misbranded medication.

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