Former Alphabay Moderator "Penissmith" Catches RICO Charges

~8 min read | Published on 2019-06-21, tagged AlphabayArrestedChild-PornModerator using 1817 words.

A recently unsealed indictment accused Bryan Connor Herrell of conspiring to engage in a racketeer influenced corrupt organization in connection with iconic Alphabay market. According to the indictment, Herrell worked as the Alphabay moderator under the usernames “Penissmith” and “Botah.”
The Pennissmith Announcement

Although the United States government dropped all charges against the alleged Alphabay administrator Alexandre Cazes after his death in a jail cell in Thailand, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott for the Eastern District of California and Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division announced in a press release.
According to court documents, Herrell was a moderator on the AlphaBay marketplace, an illegal website that operated on the so-called darknet. On AlphaBay, vendors and purchasers engaged in hundreds of thousands of illicit transactions for guns, drugs, stolen identity information, credit card numbers and other illegal items. At the time, AlphaBay was considered to be the world’s largest online drug marketplace.

“He is also accused of serving as a scam watcher – providing a service dedicated to monitor attempts to defraud AlphaBay users”
Allegedly, as a moderator on AlphaBay, Herrell settled disputes between vendors and purchasers. He is also accused of serving as a scam watcher – providing a service dedicated to monitor attempts to defraud AlphaBay users. Herrell went by the monikers “Penissmith” and “Botah” and was paid in Bitcoin for his participation.

“The investigation of AlphaBay and its former administrators continues.”
Herrell is currently in custody.
Penissmith is perhaps most well known for his time as an Alphabay moderator. But some of his other work stood out on Reddit and various darkweb news sites. Pennissmith published the following op-ed under the title “Op-Ed: PENISSMITH’s STATE of the DARKNET.”
Source: DOJ
Pennissmith’s Op-Ed

Hello everyone. My name is Penissmith, and this is my second article for deepdotweb. I have been around darknet marketplaces for the last 5 years. It’s common knowledge now that I helped AlphaBay not only by serving as a ScamWatch member, but also helped as a moderator going by the name of Botah. Even though I may come across as a troll, those who knew me or followed me knew that I’m very sentimental about the darknet and am very grateful for the fraud community. I started out like anyone else, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the treasure trove of information that I was able to accumulate over the years.

A lot of people in the community like to overthink things and make up assumptions about my hiatus. I’ve heard some theories that I have taken up a new identity, that I’ve been arrested, andeven some wilder ones from Reddit junkies. I see everything on Reddit, and by the way, it was a great source of entertainment during AlphaBay’s demise watching the subreddits melt down. I’ve always been strictly about fraud, and most of Reddit’s darknet discussion is about drugs. LE are even using posts on Reddit to catch drug vendors.

I’ve probably made five posts in my lifetime in drug forums, and those were mostly for trolling. Because of this, I have no sentimental attachment to the drug community on Reddit. In fact, some could argue that it was their fault we’ve had LE eyes on us in recent events. It’s obvious that the fraud community isn’t the main source of bringing attention to the marketplaces.

With that being said, the darknet is dying. The fraud community is already dead. In my opinion, you can’t have successful marketplaces without a community built around them. If you knew me at any point over the years, you would know I actually loved Evolution and Alphabay. Not only was there excellent uptime and friendly website design, but there was a massive community built around them. This is very important to any darknet marketplace success. When I look on the darknet today, I don’t see any community. Most sites have suffered massive ddos attacks with no redundancy to keep them alive. The closest thing we have to a community is abunch of junkies on Reddit talking about how their drugs haven’t been shipped yet, and going into meltdown mode when the inevitable exit-scam or shutdown comes along.

I personally believe that the darknet is beyond saving. There is a fix for everything; however, it seems to be beyond repair at this point. The only way to fix this would be to bring the community back to the darknet first, and then build a marketplace around that community. This is easier said than done. The wisest minds in the fraud world have gone into hiatus and are now flying solo, like myself. They never needed any of you, just remember that. They were only a part of these communities to have fun and help the noobs out. People have moved off the darknet and to the clearnet. For example, people are doing direct deals on wickr now, and multiple other chat apps. There are even Telegram groups dedicated completely to fraud, filled with noobs without any type of direction. This is working backwards, and it seems as if we’re moving back to the clearnet. This is obviously stupid in a number of ways, but it’s the way people are moving. If this continues, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there is no further need for the darknet.

Also, let’s take a look at the marketplace selection. Right now, the top marketplace is Dream.

The fraud community is a sad bunch over there, and I don’t think even I could save it. With a user interface, community, and uptime that Dream has, all it makes me want to do is stay as faraway as possible. In fact, it even motivates me to start an AlphaBay clone called PenisBay.

You guys know that I have connections, and I always get my footing in every marketplace. This is for my own, personal benefit. I can honestly say that I’ve become a professional at acquiring darknet contacts. Because of this, I can tell you right now that more 70% of the marketplaces today are either shutting themselves down to prevent arrest, plotting an exit scam, have massive security leaks, or are already operated by feds. In those 30% that are not apart of this group, most of them are run by people who aren’t very technologically savvy and have an imminent death on the way. If you trust any of the darknet marketplaces in this current state, it’s obvious that you are well beyond the reasoning stage, and you are simply careless.

That’s okay, but just know that I warned you. Just remember, there is a reason I’ve been the longest living member of the darknet. I play my cards right.

The second factor that has led to the destruction of darknets is Bitcoin itself. Bitcoin has acquired an enormous amount of mainstream adoption over these last few months alone. Bitcoin has become an impractical currency for darknet marketplaces, and it will eventually become unusable. The fees alone make any transaction under 200$ not even worth it. This is just the usability of it. Bitcoin’s explosion in the mainstream has also brought a lot of eyes on the darknet. You guys still think you’re apart of the underground, but that’s just wrong. As more people learn about Bitcoin, they will also learn about its history. There’s no illusion that Bitcoin’s history is a dark one. This means all eyes will be coming this way, and eyes that we don’t want around here. Those who knew me knew that I was an avid supporter of Monero. I’m also a supporter of other privacy-centered cryptocurrencies. Not only have I made an enormous amount of money from simply holding Monero, but I’ve also been pushing for its acceptance on the darknet. It boggles my mind that our marketplaces are still using Bitcoin as their mainpayment backbone. This is ridiculous, and this alone will kill the marketplaces.

I didn’t write this article to spread FUD. I wouldn’t have wasted my time or mind space writing this if I didn’t care. Honestly, I’m probably intelligent enough to come up with a fix for this current state of the darknet marketplaces. However, I’m exhausted and I’ve grown into a stage in my career where I’ve realized I don’t need the community anymore. My heart is only with the fraud community. If I see a path to recovery for this community, I will resurface again, and you all know that. However, I can honestly say that I don’t see this happening, and I hope that the skilled fraud people decide to fly solo and realize that they don’t need this mess in their life either.

It’s important to realize that this idea of the “darknet” is dying. The communities took a massive blow in the events of the AlphaBay/Hansa takedowns, and are on their last thread. It only takes one more catastrophe to be the end of the darknet marketplaces in my opinion. The main point to take from this is that you never needed the darknet for the marketplaces. You needed the darknet for the community. You needed a group of likeminded people and a medium to voice your opinions and have conversations behind a mask. The marketplaces were simply a product of this idea. The darknet and Tor have provided that. All the tools were there, and you guys blew it. Nobody was intelligent enough to come up with a solution that maintained this idea. If the community dies, the marketplaces die with it. There is a lot of evidence that the community is dying, if it hasn’t already. Hopefully those who have learned from me over the years have accumulated enough knowledge and a skill set to where they are able to operate solo. You guys either need to get smarter, or you will face the blow that is soon to come. That’s all there is to it. The darknet is beyond repair, and it would take a miracle to get it rolling again.

Original Arrest

Herrell was first arrested on fraud charges after a traffic stop in 2014.
Two men are facing forgery charges after an Olive Branch officer pulled them over for speeding and uncovered a forgery business.
“It goes to show that no stop is routine. Everything can be something of importance,” Major Bill Cox with Olive Branch Police Department said.
An officer pulled over suspects Bryan Connor Herrell and Ralston Boswell near Craft Goodman Frontage and Highway 302 Wednesday morning.
The officer believed there could possibly be drugs in the vehicle and called for a K9 officer. The dog alerted, so officers searched the car.
They found numerous fake cards, equipment to make them, cash, and other items.
Major Cox said the department worked with the Secret Service and West Memphis, Arkansas, in this investigation.
He believes the men have been in other states before Mississippi.
Major Cox said one of the suspects admitted to smoking marijuana before the stop, which is probably why the K9 alerted on the car.
Both men are charged with Uttering Forgery.