Colorado Man Pleads Guilty to Racketeering Charges Related to Darknet Marketplace AlphaBay
FRESNO, Calif. — Bryan Connor Herrell, 25, pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to engage in a racketeer influenced corrupt organization, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
According to court documents, Herrell was a moderator on the AlphaBay marketplace, an illegal website that operated on the so-called darknet. On AlphaBay, vendors and purchasers engaged in hundreds of thousands of illicit transactions for guns, drugs, stolen identity information, credit card numbers and other illegal items. At the time, AlphaBay was considered to be the world’s largest online drug marketplace.
As a moderator on AlphaBay, Herrell settled disputes between vendors and purchasers and settled over 20,000 disputes. He is also accused of serving as a scam watcher — providing a service dedicated to monitor attempts to defraud AlphaBay users. Herrell went by the monikers “Penissmith” and “Botah” and was paid in bitcoin for his participation.
On June 1, 2017, a Fresno grand jury indicted the alleged founder of AlphaBay, Alexandre Cazes, and four days later the Royal Thai Police, with assistance from the FBI and DEA, arrested him at his residence in Bangkok, in connection with his alleged involvement with AlphaBay. At the time of his arrest, law enforcement discovered Cazes’s laptop open and in an unencrypted state. Agents and officers found several text files that identified the passwords/passkeys for the AlphaBay website, the AlphaBay servers, and other online identities associated with AlphaBay. The indictment against Cazes was dismissed as a result of his death. The investigation of AlphaBay and its former administrators continues.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Hemesath and Grant B. Rabenn, and Senior Counsel Louisa K. Marion of the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section are prosecuting the case.
Herrell is scheduled to be sentenced on May 18. He faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.