Home Suspect arrested in $100M Incognito Market dark web drugs operation

Suspect arrested in $100M Incognito Market dark web drugs operation


  • A 23-year-old from Taiwan was arrested in New York for operating Incognito Market, a dark web narcotics platform worth $100 million.
  • Incognito Market, active from October 2020 to March, sold over $100 million in narcotics globally, including cocaine and methamphetamines.
  • If convicted, Lin faces life in prison for multiple charges including narcotics conspiracy, money laundering, and operating a criminal enterprise.

A 23-year-old man from Taiwan was arrested in New York on charges of operating “Incognito Market,” a dark web narcotics e-commerce platform allegedly worth $100 million and spanning globally. Lin was apprehended at John F. Kennedy Airport on May 18.

The complaint and indictment allege that since its inception in October 2020 until its recent closure in March, Incognito Market facilitated over $100 million in narcotics sales. This includes large quantities of cocaine and methamphetamines, globally accessible via the Tor web browser. Lin, under the pseudonym “Pharoah,” reportedly managed all operations, including supervising employees, vendors, and customer interactions, with complete authority over the platform.

Department of Justice on dark web marketplace arrest

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland commented on the arrest, stating, “Drug traffickers who think they can operate outside the law on the dark web are wrong.

“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. The long arm of the law extends to the dark web, and we will bring to justice those who try to hide their crimes there,” he added.

The first image showcases a webpage titled "You're now Incognito" with a tagline "shopping experience reimagined." It features a stylized icon of a hat and glasses, representing incognito mode. Below the icon, there are buttons labeled "View Listings," "View Vendors," "Private Links," and "Drugs Wiki," suggesting that the site is a marketplace for illicit items. The right side of the image displays a product listing for "Adderall DP30" with a price of 1.00 USD and details about the vendor and shipping
New Incognito Market users are treated to an ad for drugs. Credit: U.S. Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York stated, “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.

“The so-called ‘dark web’ is not a safe haven for those who seek to break the law.”

Assistant Director in Charge James Smith of the FBI New York Field Office added, “For nearly four years, Rui-Siang Lin allegedly operated ‘Incognito Market,’ one of the largest online platforms for narcotics sales, conducting $100 million in illicit narcotics transactions and reaped millions of dollars in personal profits.”

Special Agent in Charge Ivan J. Arvelo of Homeland Security Investigations New York pointed out, “Rui-Siang Lin’s brazen operation resulted in the illicit sale of over $100 million in narcotics, including those that were mislabeled and later found to include deadly fentanyl.”

The image presents multiple product listings from an online marketplace. Each listing includes a photo of the product, the price in USD, the vendor's name, and shipping details. The products are various types of drugs, including heroin and cocaine, with descriptions emphasizing their purity and origin. Each listing is designed with a confidence score and a heart icon, possibly for adding items to a wishlist or indicating trust in the vendor.
The products include various types of drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. Credit: U.S. Department of Justice

Special Agent in Charge Frank A. Tarentino III of the DEA’s New York Division also said, “Mr. Lin’s alleged actions of putting profits before public health were not only reckless and dangerous, but unconscionable.”

The Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI) weighed in through Special Agent in Charge Charles Grinstead, stressing their ongoing work to disrupt illegal drug sales online which “far too often have tragic consequences.”

What is Incognito Market?

Incognito Market copied legitimate e-commerce sites using branding, advertising, and customer service, whilst operating as a platform for illegal drug transactions. The site allowed anonymous transactions through a unique banking system that authorized cryptocurrency deposits and transfers. Consequently, it ensured the anonymity of buyers and sellers.

The image displays a banking interface for "Live Bank," formerly known as "Lehman Brothers." The interface shows a wallet balance with sections for BTC (Bitcoin) and XMR (Monero), along with their current exchange rates to USD. The total equivalent balance is shown as 0.00 USD. Below the balance, there are options for "Deposit," "Withdraw," "Exchange," and "Transfer," indicating the functions available for managing cryptocurrency funds.
The interface shows a wallet balance with sections for cryptocurrencies. Credit: U.S. Department of Justice

In March, Krebs on Security reported that the platform had begun extorting its vendors and buyers, threatening to publish cryptocurrency transactions and chat records of users who refused to pay a fee ranging from $100 to $20,000.

If convicted, Lin faces several charges including a mandatory life sentence for engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, with additional charges for narcotics conspiracy, money laundering, and conspiracy to sell adulterated and misbranded medication.

Featured image: Canva / Ideogram

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Suswati Basu
Tech journalist

Suswati Basu is a multilingual, award-winning editor and the founder of the intersectional literature channel, How To Be Books. She was shortlisted for the Guardian Mary Stott Prize and longlisted for the Guardian International Development Journalism Award. With 18 years of experience in the media industry, Suswati has held significant roles such as head of audience and deputy editor for NationalWorld news, digital editor for Channel 4 News and ITV News. She has also contributed to the Guardian and received training at the BBC As an audience, trends, and SEO specialist, she has participated in panel events alongside Google. Her…

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