Roy Harvender Jr. from New Castle County, Delaware, a 59-year-old member of Website 19, a dark web child pornography darknet marketplace which fully operated from 2012 to 2014, was arrested and sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Harvender, who is better known in the dark web as ricenbeans, actively engaged in the distribution and acquisition of child pornography on the Website 19 darknet marketplace. Unlike other dark web sites which simply require payments in bitcoin for access to illicit child pornography, Website 19 had a strict rule which required members such as Harvender to submit or distribute child pornography in order to access other files in the marketplace.
Although police have not found footages of child pornography stored in the local computers and other devices of Harvender, he pled guilty to one count of distribution of child pornography to the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. In addition to the initial 13-year sentence, Harvender is required to comply to 10 years of probation and pay a $5,000 restitution fee to his victims.
According to the court document obtained by The Register, Harvender was taken down by authorities when an undisclosed foreign law enforcement agency codenamed FLA 1 arrested one of the operators of Website 19. The operator agreed to help local law enforcement to reveal the identities of other members of Website 19 and potentially crackdown their illicit operations. While the motivation of the operator is not clearly stated in the court document, it is highly likely that the operator was offered a deal for his contributions to FLA 1.
Essentially, investigators at FLA 1 utilized a similar method which the FBI used to unravel the identities of cyber criminals and child pornography distributors on PlayPen, the infamous darknet marketplace. With the consent and agreement of the operator, FLA 1 took over Website 19 with the sole intent of unraveling the identities of Website 19 members. In November 2014, FLA 1 investigators decided to upload a hyperlink to the dark web site which was specifically developed to lead the members to an external internet connection outside of the anonymous Tor network. Such rerouting of connections enabled FLA 1 to obtain the actual IP address of Harvender. The court document read:
“FLA 1 advised the FBI that in early November 2014, acting independently and according to its own national laws, FLA 1 uploaded a hyperlink to a file within a forum on Website 19 that was accessible only to registered members of Website 19. The hyperlink was advertised as a preview of a child pornography website with streaming video. When a Website 19 user clicked on that hyperlink, the user was advised that the user was attempting to open a video file from an external website. If the user chose to open the file, a video file containing images of child pornography began to play, and FLA 1 captured and recorded the IP address of the user accessing the file. FLA 1 configured the video file to open an internet connection outside of the [Tor] network software, thereby allowing FLA 1 to capture the user’s actual IP address, as well as a session identifier to tie the IP address to the activity of a particular Website 19 user account.”
Over the past few months, DeepDotWeb offered extensive coverage on the status of FBI’s PlayPen investigation. DeepDotWeb most recently reported that David Lynn Browning, a 47-year-old moderator of PlayPen, received a 20-year sentence for promoting child pornography.
However, FBI ran into conflict with the court in regard to its warrant controversy surrounding the usage of a Network Investigative Technique (NIT). The software, which effectively de-anonymizes Tor upon its activation, was said to be used with a vague and ambiguous approach to investigation.
Ultimately, FBI had to dismiss a large number of cases involving PlayPen after the law enforcement agency declined to reveal the specifications of NIT. In contrast, FLA 1 did obtain consent and agreement from the operator of Website 19 and thus, did not run into conflict with existing regulations and policies.