Darknet News

Operation SpecTor Nets 288 Monopoly Market Buyers and Vendors

In a first-of-its-kind multi-national law enforcement effort, Europol announced on Monday, May 3 that they had arrested 288 suspected vendors and buyers associated with the now-defunct Monopoly darknet market. Arrests stemming from what is called Operation SpecTor spanned nine countries across three continents, resulting in the seizure of over 850 kg of drugs and almost 51 million EUR in cash and various cryptocurrencies, along with 117 firearms. Information about the suspects was garnered from analysis of data on Monopoly’s servers.

Bigger in scale than previous international busts like DisrupTor in 2020 and Dark HunTor in 2021, Operation SpecTor is unique in DNM user round-ups as law enforcement never officially acknowledged that they had seized Monopoly’s servers when the market went down in Dec 2021. Even in 2017’s Operation Bayonet, in which Hansa market was set up as a honeypot after AlphaBay refugees were steered there, law enforcement made it publicly known that they were behind the seizures within a matter of weeks.

An overview of the arrests and seizures made in Operation SpecTor. Source: Europol

A drugs-only market founded in Jul 2019, Monopoly was relatively small, having less than 1300 listings and 140 vendors at the time of its closure. Its existence was characterized by the flamboyant personality of its admin who spent a lot of time on Dread bragging about his market while creating friction with other market admins and forum users. In Dec 2021, however, Monopoly’s servers were seized by their host. Although rumors of an exit scam abounded, it became apparent that this was probably not the case, especially due to there being minimal funds to scam as the market employed a wallet-less escrow system and recommended making use of their system of direct payments to vendors.

“Monopoly admin was more then (sic) an asshole,” wrote one Dread user about the market shortly after its closure. “He was a delusional psychotic manipulator,” they also claimed, adding that “he created his own forum within his market and one of his subdreads was labeled “Improvement suggestions”… anytime you would give a suggestion to improve his market he would ban you.”

As Monopoly was a relatively small market with less than 140 vendors, it is suspected that most of the arrests made in Operation SpecTor were bulk buyers who were most likely still active on other markets. Per Europol’s press release, a number of the suspects are “considered high-value targets.”

The arrested buyers and vendors, who have a combined “tens of thousands of sales” between them, include 153 individuals from the US, 55 from the UK, 52 from Germany, 10 from the Netherlands, and 9 from Austria. Law enforcement departments in France, Poland, Switzerland, and Brazil also participated in the investigation.

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