Nearly four years after the lights went out at AlphaBay, the feds are still charging people with criminal activities linked to the dark web marketplace. On Friday the SEC and the Department of Justice announced charges against Apostolos Trovias, a Greek national who they allege posted on dark web marketplaces using the nickname “The Bull.”
However, unlike drug dealers targeted in previous actions, the authorities allege Trovias used dark web forums as a way to troll for people willing to buy or sell insider trading information while hiding behind “anonymizing software, screen names, and bitcoin payments.”
On AlphaBay and other dark web sites like Dream Market or Nightmare Market, the indictment alleges Trovias offered and eventually sold stock tips. However, as the complaint describes (PDF) his customers included at least one IRS agent and an FBI agent working undercover. In 2017, the document alleges Trovias gave the IRS agent pre-release info from earnings releases on at least two occasions in exchange for Bitcoin. The information came from quarterly earnings reports for Illumina and Analogic, although the documents indicate Trovias mixed up some of the data on one of the reports.
Between in or about December 2016, when he registered for the site, and in or about July 2017, when AlphaBay ceased operations, APOSTOLOS TROVIAS, a/k/a “The Bull,” the defendant, offered for sale, in, among other places, the “Fraud > Other> Other “ category on AlphaBay, stock tips that were based on nonpublic inside information about certain securities issuers and which could be purchased individually, on a weekly basis, or on a monthly basis for prices ranging from approximately $29.95 per tip to approximately $329.95 for a monthly subscription for tips based on non-public inside information.
6. Between in or about December 2016, when APOSTOLOS TROVIAS, a/k/a “The Bull,” the defendant, registered his account, and in or about July 2017, when AlphaBay ceased operations, TROVIAS completed the sale of dozens of individual tips, approximately three weekly plans, and approximately three monthly plans, for a total of approximately 45 transactions through the AlphaBay marketplace.
7. Also in or about 2017, APOSTOLOS TROVIAS, a/k/a “ The Bull ,” the defendant, offered for sale and did sell, among other confidential information belonging to various securities issuers, for approximately $5,000 in Bitcoin, at least one pre-release earnings report misappropriated from a publicly-traded company.
As late as 2020, the feds claim Trovias was trying to build his own dark web site, likely because the marketplaces he used kept getting shut down. The SEC and DOJ documents don’t mention taking the man into custody. However, PCMag.com points out a document from May 27th pursuing extradition after he was arrested in Peru. The DOJ has charged him with one count of securities fraud which carries a max penalty of 25 years in jail, as well as one count of money laundering with a max penalty of 20 years in jail.