Good morning, and thank you all for being here. I especially want to welcome U.S. Attorney Talbert from the Eastern District of California and Europol Director Robert Mark Wainwright, who traveled here from the Netherlands.
Among other challenges, our great country is currently in the midst of the deadliest drug crisis in our history. One American now dies of a drug overdose every 11 minutes and more than 2 million Americans are addicted to prescription painkillers. Every day, as a result of drug abuse, American families are being bankrupted, friendships broken and promising lives cut short.
And drug addiction is causing more and more crime and violence in communities across our country. And while law enforcement, first responders, and medical professionals across this country have been doing their part to stop this crisis from growing, drug traffickers and others have chosen to exploit this epidemic of addiction.
And today, some of the most prolific drug suppliers use what’s called the dark web —which is a collection of hidden websites that you can only access if you mask your identity and your location. And it’s called dark not just because these sites are intentionally hidden. It’s also dark because of what’s sold on many of them: illegal weapons, stolen identities, child pornography and large amounts of deadly drugs.
Today the Department of Justice announces the takedown of the dark web market AlphaBay. This is the largest dark net marketplace takedown in history.
An AlphaBay staff member claimed that it serviced more than 40,000 illegal vendors for more than 200,000 customers.
By far, most of this activity was in illegal drugs, pouring fuel on the fire of the national drug epidemic. Around the time of takedown of the site, there were more than 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals on AlphaBay — more than two-thirds of all listings on AlphaBay.
As of earlier this year, 122 vendors advertised fentanyl and 238 advertised heroin, and we know of several Americans who were killed by drugs sold on Alpha Bay.
One victim was just 18 years old when, in February, she overdosed on a powerful synthetic opioid, which she had bought on AlphaBay. The drug was shipped right to her house through the mail.
A little more than a week after her death, a victim in Orange County, Florida, died of an overdose from a drug bought on AlphaBay.
And then there was Grant Seaver. He was only 13 years old and a student at Treasure Mountain Junior High in Park City, Utah when he passed away after overdosing on a synthetic opioid that had been purchased by a classmate on AlphaBay.
The ability of these drugs to so instantaneously end these promising lives is a reminder to us all of just how incredibly dangerous these synthetic opioids are — especially when they are purchased anonymously from the darkest places on the internet.
This is likely one of the most important criminal case of the year. Make no mistake, the forces of law and justice face a new challenge from the criminals and transnational criminal organizations who think they can commit their crimes with impunity by ‘going dark.’ This case, pursued by dedicated agents and prosecutors, says you are not safe. You cannot hide. We will find you, dismantle your organization and network. And we will prosecute you.
I believe that because of this operation, the American people are safer — safer from the threat of identity fraud and malware, and safer from deadly drugs.
But the Department’s work is not finished. We will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict and incarcerate criminals, drug traffickers and their enablers, wherever they are. The dark net is not a place to hide. We will use every tool we have to stop criminals from exploiting vulnerable people and sending so many Americans to an early grave.
I want to thank our international partners at Europol and in Thailand, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Canada, the United Kingdom, Canada, France and Germany who worked closely with us to takedown this criminal enterprise.
And to all those Department law enforcement at the DEA and FBI, to those from IRS Criminal investigation, and the attorneys and staff — all of whom worked tirelessly on this case: you have made us proud, and you have made this country safer.