In brief:

  • A Colorado resident will spend a decade in prison for his role in AlphaBay.
  • Bryan Connor Herrell was a moderator on the darknet marketplace.
  • He pleaded guilty in January to racketeering charges.

Nine months after entering a guilty plea in a California district court, Bryan Connor Herrell, 26, was sentenced Tuesday to 11 years behind bars for his role as an AlphaBay moderator, according to an announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice. 

A dark web contraband marketplace accessible through the Tor web browser, AlphaBay was a place where vendors and purchasers could come together to buy and sell drugs, guns, stolen identity information, credit card numbers, and other illicit items—but mostly drugs. 

The website—an outgrowth of earlier darknet site Silk Road, only 10 times larger—saw its final days in 2017 after nearly three years of operation. A law enforcement operation spanning three countries dismantled the site, with Canadian police seizing its servers in Quebec, and U.S. officials seeking the extradition of one of its administrators, Alexandre Cazes, to the U.S.

Cazes was later found hanging from a towel in a Bangkok jail cell—a suspected suicide. 

At the time it went down, the site had nearly 400,000 users and was the go-to place for buying illicit drugs online. Purchases were generally made in virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin, Monero, and Ether because they offered some anonymity.

As a moderator on AlphaBay, Herrell, who went by the nicknames “Penissmith” and “Botah,” settled disputes between vendors and purchasers, the DOJ said. He also served as a “scam watcher,” keeping a lookout for any attempts to defraud AlphaBay users.

For his efforts, the Aurora, Colorado, resident was paid in Bitcoin. 

In January, Herrell pleaded guilty to conspiring to engage in a racketeer-influenced corrupt organization. 

“This sentence serves as further proof that criminals cannot hide behind technology to break the law,” U.S. Prosecutor McGregor Scott said in a statement on Tuesday. “Operating behind the veil of the darknet may seem to offer shelter from criminal investigations, but people should think twice before ordering or selling drugs online—you will be caught.”

The investigation of AlphaBay and its former administrators is ongoing.