Fake Assassin Markets Operators Arrested in Romania
Members of an “organized criminal group” suspected to be operating several assassin-for-hire scam sites on the dark web were arrested in Romania on April 6th, after years of steady operation. The arrests were performed at the behest of US authorities who had been investigating the sites and managed to link them to a group of Romanian citizens.
Seven house raids were performed in relation to the takedown, in the counties of Gorj and Hunedoara; the result of warrants issued against five suspects and four “witnesses.” The amount of financial damage directly linked to the sites’ operation was estimated to be around 500,000 EUR, although the total tally they collected over the years is likely to be far greater.
Perhaps the most notorious type of darknet market, murder-for-hire sites have been a part of the dark web since just a year or two after the closure of the original Silk Road marketplace. However, it has been known for quite some time that just about all of them are fake — scam sites designed to separate vengeful parties from decent-to-large sums of Bitcoin.
The most famous of these sites was run by a group calling themselves the Besa Mafia, of which the five arrested suspects are presumed to comprise. Other sites operated by the group are thought to include Camorra Hitman and #1 Hitman Marketplace, along with a list of less-famous names.
Besides being complete scams, all these sites shared the common feature of purporting to link “real hitmen” with a client looking for violence to be performed upon a particular victim — whether it be a beating, stabbing, torture, or even murder. Prices for these services usually ranged between $5,000 and $20,000, payable in Bitcoin, but never resulted in the actual delivery of service. Instead, clients were likely to become the subject of a police investigation, and dozens of arrests have been performed over the years for charges related to this type of attempted murder.
While real murder-for-hire sites have been found to exist on the dark web, they are not advertised in the transparent fashion of the Besa Mafia sites (which were usually found via darknet link lists) and are nearly impossible to stumble upon.
The arrests were the result of a joint operation between the US Homeland Security Investigations and the US Embassy in Bucharest, performed by police officers from Romania’s Service for Combating Cybercrime.