Rui-Siang Lin, a 23-year-old from Taiwan, was apprehended at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport for allegedly orchestrating a dark web drug marketplace with over US$100 million in transactions. 

The arrest occurred on Saturday, with Lin appearing in court two days later.

Lin is charged with operating “Incognito Market,” a hub for illicit drug sales considered one of the world’s largest of its kind, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

“If convicted, Lin faces a mandatory minimum penalty of life in prison for engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise; a maximum penalty of life in prison for narcotics conspiracy; a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for money laundering; and a maximum penalty of five years in prison for conspiracy to sell adulterated and misbranded medication,” the DOJ said in a Monday press release.

The probe into Lin’s enterprise involved tracking cryptocurrency payments, which ultimately exposed his identity.

Lin’s online aliases include “Pharoah, and “faro”.

Incognito Market, which was operational from October 2020 to March 2024, facilitated anonymous transactions of narcotics like heroin and MDMA.

It used cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Monero, and included branding and customer service akin to legitimate e-commerce sites.

The investigation traced at least four transactions to Lin’s crypto wallet, which led to the discovery of his personal information through a centralized cryptocurrency exchange account registered in his name.

Lin is accused of not only managing the marketplace but also profiting from a 5% commission on sales and providing escrow services. 

Lin allegedly pocketed millions himself “at the community’s expense,” the DOJ said.

This arrest is a significant victory for law enforcement agencies, including the DEA, in their ongoing battle against the dark web’s illegal drug trade.