‘Incognito Market’ Founder Charged in $100M Dark Web Scheme to Traffic Deadly Drugs, DOJ says

Rachel Acenas
By Rachel Acenas
May 22, 2024US News
‘Incognito Market’ Founder Charged in $100M Dark Web Scheme to Traffic Deadly Drugs, DOJ says
The U.S. Department of Justice building in Washington on June 28, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

The alleged architect behind a dark web drug market has been arrested and charged in New York.

Rui-Siang Lin, 23, appeared in Manhattan federal court on Monday after he was arrested over the weekend at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“As alleged, Rui-Siang Lin was the architect of Incognito, a $100 million dark web scheme to traffic deadly drugs to the United States and around the world,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

The Taiwanese man secretly operated the criminal enterprise for nearly four years, and it became one of the largest online platforms for narcotics sales, prosecutors alleged. While the marketplace was an illegal operation, authorities also said it had many features characteristic of a legitimate e-commerce site, such as branding, advertising, and customer service.

The narcotics marketplace allowed users to buy and sell illegal drugs anonymously and through cryptocurrency transactions, according to the Justice Department. In exchange for listing and selling narcotics as a vendor on the market, each vendor paid five percent of the purchase price of every drug sold to Incognito Market. This provided Mr. Lin with millions of dollars in profits, according to prosecutors.

Incognito Market also had its own so-called ‘bank’ to facilitate the transactions. The bank allowed users to deposit cryptocurrency on the site into their own accounts. After a narcotics transaction was completed, cryptocurrency from the buyer’s bank account was transferred to the seller’s account. The process also enabled buyers and sellers to remain anonymous to each other.

“Under the promise of anonymity, Lin’s alleged operation offered the purchase of lethal drugs and fraudulent prescription medication on a global scale,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge James Smith said in a statement.

This includes cocaine, oxycodone, heroin, and narcotics that were mislabeled and later found to include deadly fentanyl.

Mr. Lin was known as “Pharoah” or “Faro” online, according to the unsealed indictment. The FBI claimed it eventually uncovered his real identity by tracking crypto from the dark web drug market to a crypto exchange account allegedly in his name.

Incognito Market was formed in October 2020 and shut down in March 2024 after a federal probe into the alleged criminal enterprise.

“As alleged, Rui-Siang Lin operated a sophisticated and dangerous online narcotics marketplace through which he profited millions of dollars at the community’s expense,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. “The dedicated prosecutors from the Southern District of New York and our law enforcement partners will pursue criminal actors regardless of whether they operate on street corners or in the dark corners of the internet. The so-called ‘dark web’ is not a safe haven for those who seek to break the law,” he said.

Mr. Lin was charged with engaging in a criminal enterprise, narcotics conspiracy, conspiracy to sell misbranded medication, and money laundering.

He faces a mandatory life sentence on the criminal enterprise charge, while the narcotics conspiracy charge carries a maximum life sentence if convicted.

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.