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FBI Says Dark Market Sting Netted 56 Arrests 130

Posted by timothy
from the precise-number-on-those-prevented-thefts-fellas dept.
narramissic writes "A two-year undercover FBI sting operation targeting online 'carder' forums hosted on the DarkMarket.ws Web site has netted 56 arrests and prevented about $70 million in fraud losses, the FBI said Thursday. DarkMarket.ws was widely used by online scammers to buy and sell stolen credit card numbers, other financial information, and even the devices used to make fake banking cards. Before it was shut down earlier this month, the Web site had registered more than 2,500 members. Although Dark Market was thought to have been administered by a criminal going by the name Master Splyntr, German Public Radio reported on Monday that the FBI had been running a sting operation on the site since late 2006, and that Master Splyntr was actually an FBI agent named J. Keith Mularski." Of course, they say it in German; non-German speakers may want to consult the Babelfish.
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FBI Says Dark Market Sting Netted 56 Arrests

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  • agent identities (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Danny Rathjens (8471) <slashdot2@raTEAthjens.org minus caffeine> on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:43AM (#25410605)
    Why does the FBI publicize the names of their undercover agents?
    • by drix (4602) on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:47AM (#25410637) Homepage

      No kidding, I thought the same thing. Hope that guy has Lifelock [lifelock.com].

      • Re:agent identities (Score:5, Interesting)

        by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968.gmail@com> on Friday October 17, 2008 @10:03AM (#25411833) Journal

        That doesn't bug me as much as the lack of oversight on these "stings".Did they have an independent branch keeps logs of all conversations online so we know they didn't toss out any "unusable"(entrapment) transactions? And don't think cops won't try to set you up? BS! I'll relate a little personal story just to give a taste.

        The good old '90s was the time,where Windows was built on top of DOS and was as stable as a crackhead on bad dope,and I ran a chat room for Windows errors. You know the type,"OMG this thing runs for 5 minutes and then turns blue and says gibberish!".So I'm fixing a VXD error when suddenly this "chick" comes on and starts hitting on me HARD. At first I tell her she is in the wrong site,this is for Windows PC errors,etc but she just won't stop. One filthy suggestion after another and "What's a matter,you don't like hot teen girls or something?" Finally I say " Look I'm working here. Take your dumb jailbait ass and go to a chat site and let those that are having a problem with their PCs get the help they need before I block your IP!"

        The screen goes dead for a few minutes,then returns with "This is Officer Jaynes of The Arizona PD working with a federal task force to catch online predators. I just wanted to thank you,for you are the first person who hasn't taken the bait in nearly six months and I was beginning to think all guys were predators." I said "Well considering IANAL but even I know that what you were doing is entrapment,congratulations! I have just looked up the IP range for the Arizona PD and as soon as I push this button you're blacklisted. Buh Bye!"

        So I think that the SAME rules that apply to meatspace should be applied to cyberspace. If the FBI does a sting in meatspace everything from the initial conversation right up to the arrest is taped,usually on video,so we can see that no entrapment was going on and to give the FBI extra evidence at trial. So any FBI servers should be managed by a separate company and every single thing going through them should be logged,period. Because I am all for catching pervs and ID thieves,with all the stunts like this [abovetopsecret.com],where they didn't even bother to log referrers so a rickroll could have ended with you in jail or dead,frankly I don't trust them as far as I can throw their server blade.

        • Wow that [cnet.com]'s insane!

          At trial, defendant suggested unrealistic, unlikely explanations as to how his computer was linked to the post.

          How unrealistic is "someone sent me a link"? It's entirely plausible that the link text he clicked was completely unrelated; even if it's unlikely and unrealistic, you have to have AIRTIGHT evidence if you're locking someone in a cage for a decade.

          • There is no such thing as "airtight" evidence. There's always the possibility of "a string of coincidences".

            This is not a problem with FBI agents, with oversight, or with anything, but a basic mathematical problem. It manifests itself when trying to measure the speed of light, and it manifests itself (a LOT worse) when trying to determine if someone is guilty of a crime. It even manifests itself in mathematical disciplines.

            And it can't be eliminated ... ever (as in in mathematics there's a proof that elimin

          • by conlaw (983784)

            It's entirely plausible that the link text he clicked was completely unrelated; even if it's unlikely and unrealistic, you have to have AIRTIGHT evidence if you're locking someone in a cage for a decade.

            In the first place, evidence in a criminal trial doesn't need to be "airtight"; the standard is "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the defendent did what he was accused of.

            Second, the defendant has a much storong case if he can show that the illegal images were received in a post from someone with whom he reglarly corresponds, titled, "My 4-year-old's birthday party." Responding to a an anonymous post or one from a stranger, titled, "Sex with my 4-year-old" pretty much establishes an intent to view illegal m

            • by kalirion (728907)

              Responding to a an anonymous post or one from a stranger, titled, "Sex with my 4-year-old" pretty much establishes an intent to view illegal material.

              Yes, if they really did respond to that post. Do you know what a rickroll is? Anyone could send you a link titled "check it out, tiger riding a horse!" which takes you to the same exact page as that anonymous post. Only thing you'd be guilty of is stupidity for clicking on a link in an email. Only thing you'd be found guilty of is child abuse.

          • by Golddess (1361003) on Friday October 17, 2008 @10:48AM (#25412441)

            How unrealistic is "someone sent me a link"? It's entirely plausible that the link text he clicked was completely unrelated

            Yeah, tell me about it. [goatse.cz]

            (Disclaimer, that might be goatse, but I was too chicken-shit to find out for certain.)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Toll_Free (1295136)

          lol.

          You really need to brush up on what entrapment is.

          They where NOT trying to entrap you. Selling you narcotics and then arresting you for owning them is NOT entrapment.

          Your story is suspect anyway. Any cop worth (his / her) salts isn't going to be telling you that you are a good boy afterwards for not taking the bait.

          Looking up IP space for the police? LOL. Heard of AOL dialup?

          This post stinks of bullshit. I'm removing my shoes and walking on. snopes couldn't even stand for this one.

          --Toll_Free

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by steelfood (895457)

            Selling you narcotics itself in an of itself is not entrapment. Repeatedly pestering you to buy narcotics until you do is entrapment.

            Cops are, by and large, dumb. Local (exclusing large cities) and state cops are typically dumber than federal agents. Even for TFA, the FBI was logging into their server from a government IP block. I'm typically skeptical, but I don't see anything glaringly inconsistent with this anecdote. And quite frankly, there have been many such sting operations, and I wouldn't be surpris

            • This does not match my experience with the FBI. They are, classically, incompetent at actually prosecuting computer crime or pursuing anything that might actually interfere with a political campaign contributor or make them work for it.
            • by hairyfeet (841228)

              Thank you! As for how I blocked the Ip addresses we had this thing called Astalvista(pre Google and damned if I know whether I spelled it right) where typing in "Arizona PD IP Addresses" brought up one of the many anti big brother blacklist sites. Sure we didn't have BlueTack and Peerguardian back then,but that is why we had some seriously huge hosts files. I also ran WHOIS on the IP of the "chick" and it came back as Arizona PD,so that is why I believed it wasn't a troll.

              As to why "she" told me? Damned if

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mcgrew (92797) *

            Selling you narcotics and then arresting you for owning them is NOT entrapment.

            Then what, pray tell, IS? Sure looks like entrapment to me, and if I wind up on a jury where some poor slob got busted for buying dope from a cop, I'll hold out for a "not guilty" verdict. Actually since I don't believe the feds have the constitutional authority to outlaw drugs (they needed a constitutional amendment to outlaw alcohol, and I see no difference between it and any other drug) if I'm on the jury on a drug case, he or

            • Re:agent identities (Score:5, Informative)

              by Tanktalus (794810) on Friday October 17, 2008 @04:10PM (#25417221) Journal

              The definition of entrapment [lectlaw.com] has three things:

              1. The idea for committing the crime came from the government agents and not from the person accused of the crime. Offering you narcotics passes this test. Running a site for clearing stolen credit card information, being passive, does not.
              2. The government agents then persuaded or talked the person into committing the crime. Simply giving him the opportunity to commit the crime is not the same as persuading him to commit the crime. Asking you merely once if you want to buy narcotics isn't persuading you. Running a site for clearing stolen credit card information isn't, either.
              3. The person was not ready and willing to commit the crime before the government agents spoke with him. If you weren't willing to buy narcotics, someone asking you to buy some wouldn't get you to do it. If you didn't already have credit card info to sell, or want to buy stolen credit card, you wouldn't be looking for the sting site.

              So, no, this is not entrapment.

        • "So I think that the SAME rules that apply to meatspace should be applied to cyberspace."

          Meatspace = cyberspace, haven't you ever seen goatse?

    • I am sure it's real, just like you used your real name to be one of the lucky 2,500, right?
    • The German radio station did.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Riot.ATL (1365395)
      Might be a pseudonym?
    • Re:agent identities (Score:5, Informative)

      by autocracy (192714) <slashdot2007 AT storyinmemo DOT com> on Friday October 17, 2008 @08:21AM (#25410845) Homepage
      Well, they're not undercover, per se. Whenever a case comes to trial, the officer's name always ends up on the record. Further, I presume there is no such thing as a career undercover officer. I believe the way they, and most police organizations at a lower level, work is that willing officers rotate into undercover operations for a period of time, and then rotate back to "real" duty of some kind.
    • If you read the outline of what the website admin says at the end, spoken like a true agent,
      or not.....I am not so sure this dude is an agent as the german police would want you to think, maybe just want to discredit him in case he spawns another website with his name attached to it.

    • Because he's done being undercover after that. I don't know about Germany, but if it's anything like the U.S. you have a right to face your accusers. That means his cover would be blown in court anyways. At least this way he gets some kudo's and he'll probably get a promotion out of that field work anyways.

    • Either way their names come up in the court case. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pablo_Escabar [wikipedia.org] actually had people that worked for him take the fall and have the lawyers report this information to him so he could weed out the moles in his organization.
    • Although Dark Market was thought to have been administered by a criminal going by the name Master Splyntr, German Public Radio reported on Monday that the FBI had been running a sting operation on the site since late 2006, and that Master Splyntr was actually an FBI agent named J. Keith Mularski."

      I'm surprised anyone trusted him. Had I been a scammer, I would have only done business with Shredder or Krang. Everyone knows Master Splynter is one of the good guys! With this guy, I'd have been afraid four mutan

      • So you're saying there are much larger conspirators at play? Where is their dome-of-terror? What type of turtles exactly are you worried about? I hadn't seen any carrying a 'Club'. Sword and nunchucks yes.

      • The thing with turtles is that even if you kill the one at the front, there's another one ready to take his place.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      You don't have to say "f*ck", this is slashdot. You can say "fuck" here. Likewise you don't have to call your spade a "pointy shovel".

      And you don't have to call the Secret Police "undercover agents". They'd goddamned secret police, and no free society needs them. If your law enforcement officers are incompetent to catch criminals, maybe you need better cops or better laws.

    • So that Tsutomo can hunt them down when they violate their parole conditions? Look into http://www.takedown.com/ [takedown.com] for more details. The FBI has a long established record of actually fostering more crime than they prevent with protected informants such as Mr. Mitnick in the computer world, and Whitey Bulger in the gangster world.
  • by oodaloop (1229816) on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:44AM (#25410617)
    Why are we wasting our time on rodents when the Shredder is still out there?
    • The FBI has apparently taken down Master Splinter. Quick brothers, to the Turtle Van! Haha.

      This bust really alters the context of the ninja in Ninja Turtles, doesn't it?
    • by Tetsujin (103070)

      Why are we wasting our time on rodents when the Shredder is still out there?

      I suspect the cybernetic hand of Baxter Stockman is somehow behind this...

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:46AM (#25410625) Homepage Journal
    Ich fuer ein sage wilkommen zu unseren neuen ... ah, fuck it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sique (173459)

      Ich zumindest begrüße unsere neuen Oberhäupter.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday October 17, 2008 @08:13AM (#25410791) Homepage

      Wenn ist das Nunstuck git und Slotermeyer? Ja! Beirhund das Oder die Flipperwald gersput.

      • I tried to Babelfish that and the whole site went down... what gives?!

      • by durnurd (967847)
        I assume this is the "funniest joke of all time", yes?

        I'm particularly fond of this one that doesn't translate well:

        "Was ist darunter?"
        "Worunter?"
        "Unterhosen?! Hah!"
  • by halcyon1234 (834388) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Friday October 17, 2008 @08:15AM (#25410809) Journal

    I think the real question is this:

    How exactly does one pay online for a credit card number?

  • So are they saying the form was run by the FBI?

    GOLLY!! We better warn the Turtles that Splinter is also Shredder!!
    • by dnoyeb (547705)

      My thought exactly. At first I was thinking, good show. Our tax dollars at work. Then when I read that the FBI ran the site I was thinking, how can this not be entrappment?

      I suppose the FBI will try to use the knowledge and people they gain from this sting to persue other cases. I can't see how they could prosecute the people they catch on this site that would not have existed if the FBI did not set it up.

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        I'm sure they didn't go so far as to say "hey, talk about stealing credit cards here!"

        Giving someone a room to talk in is hardly entrapment.

      • Entrapment would be if they found people and pursued them, "Wanna buy some credit card numbers? Huh? Huh? Well dooya?!"

        It seems to me that if you set up a front and people come to you soliciting illegal transactions that it's not entrapment at all. They had already decided to do the illegal thing and found you.

    • by deniable (76198) on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:37AM (#25411541)

      The FBI was given a mission to get online crime under control, so that's what they did. In Australia, one drug squad took control of the local drug scene and supposedly ran it very well.

    • The government is not your daddy. Its purpose is not to raid your neighbors' wallets and give you money.

      Exactly, the government is more like an older male sibling, who's purpose is to waste a lot of your money, buying things you don't want, at a too high price from companies that his friends own.

  • So, the FBI has rounded up 56 people allegedly involved in credit card scamming...by...luring them with a url called "darkmarket.ws".

    It's plain to see that its very important to the FBI to catch the smartest criminals, and that they'll spend any amount of money and take any amount of time to do it.

    Thanks, FBI.
    • Hahahahahaa.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They were just copying what's been done before.

      There have been numerous similar online forums before this, the 3 most famous being, probably:

      shadowcrew

      carderplanet

      darkprofits

      these were all actually run by the criminals and not by an FBI sting, so it's not like there wasn't precedent for such an obviously named forum.

  • Its a Conspiracy! The FBI has been scamming millions out of Americans to pay for the robotic technology that keeps Cheney's mechanical heart beating. Now the US economy cant handle it and they've outsourced to China, so they call it a Sting Operation.

    Is is that the DHS following me?? *Pulls brim of tinfoil lined ballcap down and attempts to fade into the crowd*
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      The FBI has been scamming millions out of Americans to pay for the robotic technology that keeps Cheney's mechanical heart beating

      We are cyborg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is not ony futile, you will not resist. You wil beg to join us. You will PAY to join us.

      Just ask your grandma, chances are she's one of us.

  • So the FBI created and administered this forum encouraging illegal activity, attracted 2500 users over 2 years, and arrested 56. Don't those numbers seem lopsided? Didn't the FBI create many more criminals than it caught? Isn't it legally and morally reprehensible to trifle with real citizens' financial information in order to catch such a tiny number of perps? What of the innocents whose financial histories have been at risk these past 2 years?

    Am I missing something here? Isn't this entrapment? An
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Zironic (1112127)

      Not everyone that visits that kind of forum is engaged in criminal activity. They can only arrest people they have proof against.

    • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dachannien (617929) on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:34AM (#25411515)

      Most of those "users" were probably spambots, if it's anything like the forums I maintain. :P

      As for the entrapment angle, this one's easy. The FBI guy sets up the site, drops a few whispers around the Tubes, and gets people to show up. Maybe the FBI has some controlled info to spread around so that people get interested, but they can turn those accounts off quickly enough that it doesn't spend a lot of taxpayer money.

      After a while, people start exchanging their own stolen credit card info for cash using the site as an intermediary. They discuss their own criminal exploits, and they unwittingly provide the information needed to trace themselves to their physical location, because they now trust the site and don't bother using a proxy for anonymity. The FBI guy only has to stay involved in a general way, making his presence felt as the site's maintainer, and everyone else will continue willingly providing evidence against themselves without the direct prodding of the FBI guy.

      And that's not entrapment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jester998 (156179)

      [italic]Isn't this entrapment? [/italic]
      No, entrapment only happens when the authorities coerce you into doing something you wouldn't have done normally (i.e. send a hot female officer who promises to, ahem, 'reward' you if you commit an illegal act against your will). It does not cover things done of your own will (i.e. signing up for a forum and participating).

  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:05AM (#25411187)
    So, I take it Ebay and Pirate Bay are FBI stings too?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Actually, Microsoft is an FBI sting for catching the criminally stupid.
    • I know you are joking, but since I feel TPB is a good thing for several reasons, let me just tell any nervous souls out there that it would be illegal for the swedish police to do something similar. They are not even allowed to do this to catch previously convicted murderers selling drugs and weapons to minors. The police simply are not allowed to commit a crime to prevent a crime.
      (They still do from time to time, but these individuals usually end up either in jail and/or without a job)

      In addition, TPB
      • by Wildclaw (15718)

        On the other hand, here in Sweden illegally obtained evidence can be used in the court of law, with a few exceptions of client privileges (communication with priests, lawyers, etc).

        So even if a police officer gets fired for obtaining material illegally, you can still get found guilty in court because of that material.

        Just an interesting note on how laws differ between countries.

    • by cavis (1283146)
      If The Pirate Bay is a sting, I'm about to be in a world of shit.
    • Craigslist is a sting.
  • by madsheep (984404) on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:12AM (#25411241) Homepage
    This is great news and I am happy it was a successful sting operation. Bringing these guys down is something we all like to see and it helps make a lot of hard work of different people pay off. However, there is one item that has been mentioned a few times in other articles that blows my mind on this. From the Wired article:

    The German report confirm rumors that have swirled around DarkMarket since late 2006, when uber-hacker Max Ray Butler cracked the site's server and announced to the underground that he'd caught Master Splynter logging in from the NCFTA's office on the banks of the Monongahela River.

    In other words they were completely outed, although unsuccessfully, prior to the German report. They were actually hacked and exposed two years ago. That's pretty bad operations security. Never run/manage your sting site from where you really are.. well at least if that plays ties back directly to law enforcement. That's kind of like if a DEA agent showed up to a drug buy and parked his marked police car behind the dumpster nearby. ::face palm::

  • When the Evil Darkmarket attacks, these FBI agents dont cut them no slack!
    Teenage mutant ninja FBI agents,
    Teenage mutant ninja FBI agents,
    Teenage mutant ninja FBI agents,
    FBI gonna scam you, Turtle power!

    Man i miss Saturday morning cartoons
  • What the hell? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by derrickh (157646)

    I'm I seeing things or did Slashdot just publish the full name of an undercover FBI Agent? Even if its out somewhere else, it's pretty low to post it on a site that gets 100x the traffic of the source.

    D

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Any time you out the Secret Police it's a GOOD thing. Just ask the dead people killed by Nazi germany and Soviet Russia's Secret Police.

      I respect a good cop. I can even admire one. But any country with Secret Police is a defacto police state. Yes, including my own.

      • by derrickh (157646)

        We arent talking about a secret death squad hunting down Jewish people. Undercover agents are a needed part of police work and outting them puts them and thier families in danger.

        D

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          We arent talking about a secret death squad hunting down Jewish people

          No, we're talking about police who pretend to be civilians. Police who keep the fact that they are police secret. I didn't say "Nazi death squad", your Texas hangman would be closer to that.

          Undercover agents are a needed part of police work

          Only when you have laws with no victims.

          outting them puts them and thier families in danger.

          I hope you're not in law enforcement, because you just made all cops look lke cowards. Look at any list of dan

  • Anyone stupid enough to try and mess with the identity of one fictitious "J. Keith Mularski" will be promptly put under investigation and subsequently arrested

I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman

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