288 Arrested in Massive Dark Web Drug Crackdown

Though AG admits it's 'a bit of a whack-a-mole problem'
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2023 2:30 AM CDT
288 Arrested in Massive Dark Web Drug Crackdown
Attorney General Merrick Garland announces an international law enforcement operation targeting fentanyl and opioid traffickers on the Darknet during a news conference at the Department of Justice, Tuesday, May 2, 2023, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Nathan Howard)

A crackdown on the trafficking of fentanyl and other drugs on the dark web led to 288 arrests, 153 of those in the US, authorities say. The 18-month-long operation spanning nine countries on three continents was known as Operation SpecTor, and it also resulted in the seizure of more than $53 million in cash and virtual currencies along with 117 guns and almost 2,000 pounds of drugs. The probe took down Monopoly Market, a "drug hub" on the dark web, Quartz reports. The Wall Street Journal points out, however, that traffickers are typically pretty quick to find another marketplace once one is shut down. “There is a bit of a whack-a-mole problem here, and we are whacking as hard as we can,” Attorney General Merrick Garland says. “We do believe it is having an impact.”

The US Department of Justice and the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) were involved in taking down the marketplace. “The Sinaloa and Jalisco drug cartels, and the global networks they operate, are killing Americans by sending fentanyl into the United States. Their associates distribute this fentanyl into communities across America by every means possible, including the dark web," the director of the Drug Enforcement Agency says. “The DEA is committed to shutting down the fentanyl supply chain from beginning to end, and we will relentlessly pursue the associates of these cartels wherever they hide, even in the dark corners of the internet." The FBI has been contacting drug buyers on the dark web this year to let them know dealers are increasingly cutting product with doses of fentanyl that could be fatal. (More fentanyl stories.)

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