A recently unsealed nine-count indictment charged the administrator of the child abuse platform “DarkScandals” with an assortment of child pornography and money laundering crimes. On March 9, authorities arrested the alleged administrator of the site and seized DarkScandals. The investigation involved law enforcement in several countries, including Europol, the Dutch Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service, Openbaar Ministerie, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Bundeskriminalamt.
Michael Rahim Mohammad, 32, known as “Mr Dark” on DarkScandals, was indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia, for running the site. The indictment charged the alleged administrator with six counts of distribution of child pornography, production and transportation of obscene matters for sale or distribution, and engaging in the business of selling or transferring obscene matter. In addition to the child pornography charges, the indictment includes three three counts of money laundering.
According to court documents, the defendant established DarkScandals in 2012 as both an onion service and clearnet site. DarkScandals advertised “real blackmail, rape and forced videos of girls all around the world” with over 2,000 videos and images. To gain access to the content hosted on DarkScandals, the administrator required the users to pay in one of two ways. The users either paid with Bitcoin or Ethereum or they contributed by uploading “own made material” that had to “portray real sexual violence” to be accepted as payment and added to the DarkScandals content. On receiving the payment, the administrator delivered the content in a download link sent to the buyer via email.
The investigation into Welcome to Video, the “largest child sexual exploitation market by volume of content” on the dark web, led to the investigation into DarkScandals. Investigators discovered DarkScandals while reviewing the cryptocurrency transaction history of a Welcome to Video user in Washington DC. The Welcome to Video user had reportedly sent 0.15 BTC to one of DarkScandals’ Bitcoin addresses on March 26, 2016.
On February 13, 2018, the investigator’s made an undercover purchase and sent 0.0197777 Bitcoin to one of DarkScandals’ Bitcoin addresses. On April 20, 2018, the investigators received a download link from the address email@example.com. The content downloaded reportedly contained child pornography and other obscene material.
In February 2019 the DarkScandals clearnet site moved from darkscandals.com. to darkscandals.co. The investigators reportedly established that Mohammad had paid for the hosting services of darkscandals.co in the United States on February 5, 2019.
Blockchain analysis revealed that as of March 1, 2020, DarkScandals’ Bitcoin and Ethereum addresses had received a total of 188.6631 Bitcoin and 26.724 Ethereum.
Mohammad was arrested on March 9, 2020, in his home in Barendrecht, Netherlands for the possession and distribution of child abuse material. The DarkScandals sites were subsequently taken down and a seizure banner published.
Don Fort, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation:
“The types of crimes described in this indictment are the most disgusting I’ve encountered in 30 years of law enforcement. It is a special kind of evil to prey on and profit from the pain of others. Criminals should know if you leave a digital footprint, we will find you. If you exploit our children, we will put you behind bars. If you thought you were anonymous, think again. The dark web is not quite as dark today due to the hard work of IRS-CI and our partner agencies.”
In an international case, the Dutch Police (Politie), the Dutch Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service (FIOD), Dutch National Prosecutor’s office (Openbaar Ministerie), US authorities (Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations, Homeland Security Investigations, Department of Justice), the German Federal Criminal Police (Bundeskriminalamt) and Europol cooperated in an operation that led to the arrest of the administrator, and the takedown of the website DarkScandals. This site, available on both the dark web and clear web, featured violent rape videos and child abuse material.
Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) supported the investigation with analysis, information exchange and by providing technical expertise. Europol set up the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) in 2013 to strengthen the law enforcement response to cybercrime in the EU and thus to help protect European citizens, businesses and governments from online crime. Since its establishment, EC3 has made a significant contribution to the fight against cybercrime.
On 9 March, the Dutch Police arrested the administrator of the website in his home in Barendrecht, the Netherlands for the possession and distribution of child abuse material. The Dutch National Prosecutor’s Office of the Public Prosecution Service in the Netherlands (OM) and the Child Pornography and Child Sex Tourism team of the Police of The Hague had received intelligence from Europol and investigating authorities in the United States of America, to investigate and prosecute the individual and to take the DarkScandals website offline.
DarkScandals hosted and distributed videos and images featuring non-consensual and violent sexual abuse. DarkScandals began operating about 2012 and boasted over 2,000 videos and images and advertised that it offered “real blackmail, rape and forced videos of girls all around the world.” DarkScandals offered users two ways to access this illicit and obscene content, which was delivered in “packs” via email for customers to download. Users could either pay for the video packs using cryptocurrency, or upload new videos to add to the content of the DarkScandals sites. Specific rules for the video uploads to the sites included “real rape/forced” content, and stated a preference for “own made material.” The site specifically forbade “fake, amateur…or acted movies,” rejecting content if it did not portray real sexual violence. The arrested administrator allegedly received almost 2 million dollars from selling this obscene and illicit content.
In addition to the arrest in the Netherlands, the administrator of DarkScandals was also indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia, USA for his operation of DarkScandals. The Dutch national was charged with various counts of Distribution of Child Pornography, Production and Transportation of Obscene Matters for Sale or Distribution, Engaging in the Business of Selling or Transferring Obscene Matter, and Laundering of Monetary Instruments.