ALPHABAY Spokesperson Ronald L. Wheeler III A/K/A “Trappy” arraigned in federal court
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Georgia
ATLANTA - Ronald L. Wheeler, III, a/k/a Trappy, has been arraigned on federal charges of conspiracy to commit access device fraud. During the hearing, Wheeler waived indictment and opted to proceed by criminal information.
“This defendant was the mouthpiece for AlphaBay on the internet, encouraging others to access the Dark Web and purchase illegal drugs and contraband,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “Like other defendants, Wheeler eventually learned that the Dark Web is not impenetrable; your actions will catch up to you, just like they did in this case.”
“Cyber criminals, such as Ronald L. Wheeler, present an omnipresent and increasingly critical threat to our community's safety. By acting as a spokesperson for the criminal element on AlphaBay, he served to further the agendas of those who chose to defy our laws and victimize our communities. He operated with an attitude of impunity, until now,” said David J. LeValley, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office.
“People think the Dark Web allows them to be incognito, conduct criminal activity and profit undetected,” said James E. Dorsey, Acting Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and the United States Attorney’s Office to shine light into the Dark Web and dismantle these corrupt criminal enterprises one at a time.”
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court: Ronald L. Wheeler III a/k/a Trappy conspired with Alexandre Cazes a/k/a Alpha02 a/k/a Admin, and others to commit access device fraud through The Onion Routing (“TOR”) Dark Web marketplace AlphaBay.
AlphaBay was an international criminal marketplace that enabled users to purchase and sell stolen and fraudulently obtained access devices, illegal drugs, firearms, hacking tools, and other illicit goods and services. Sales listings on the website were organized into categories, including “Fraud,” “Drugs & Chemicals,” “Counterfeit Items,” “Weapons,” and “Carded Items.” Shortly before AlphaBay was shut down by law enforcement, the website contained thousands of sales listings for illegal products, including approximately 4,488 sales listings for stolen personally identifying information; 28,800 sales listings for stolen online account information; 6,008 sales listings for stolen credit card information; 3,586 sales listings for computer hacking tools, such as botnets and exploit kits; and 257,533 sales listings for illegal drugs, including cocaine, heroin, and a variety of opioids. The sales of stolen personally identifying information, online account information, and credit card information all provided fertile grounds for access device fraud to flourish on the Dark Web.
The financial transactions conducted on AlphaBay occurred in virtual cryptocurrencies. Aside from product listings, AlphaBay provided message board forums where users could securely discuss their criminal activities and receive support from AlphaBay staffers.
On or about May 25, 2015, Wheeler began working as a public relations specialist for AlphaBay. Wheeler’s duties included moderating the AlphaBay subreddit on the internet website reddit.com; moderating the AlphaBay message board forums; mediating sales disputes among AlphaBay users; promoting AlphaBay on the internet; and providing non-technical assistance to AlphaBay users. In return for his work in the conspiracy, Wheeler received a salary in Bitcoin. Throughout his participation in the conspiracy, Wheeler advised the public on how to access AlphaBay and encouraged the public to use AlphaBay. Wheeler’s work with AlphaBay continued until early July 2017, when the FBI and its international law enforcement partners shut down AlphaBay and the AlphaBay owner, Cazes, was arrested in Thailand.
Ronald L. Wheeler, III, a/k/a Trappy, 24, of Streamwood, Illinois, was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Janet F. King. Members of the public are reminded that the information only contains charges. The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Samir Kaushal is prosecuting the case. Substantial assistance was provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.
Updated November 16, 2017