In Atlanta, a 24-year-old Illinois man pleaded not guilty to performing the role of a so-called “public relations specialist” for the Alphabay marketplace. This public relations specialist, as common sense would dictate, was none other than the market’s very own “Trappy_AB.”
Ronald L. Wheeler III of Streamwood, Illinois, entered a plea of not guilty before federal Magistrate Judge Janet King at the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Authorities charged Mr. Wheeler with conspiracy to commit access device fraud. Judge King permitted Wheeler conditional freedom until (and possibly after) his next court appearance. The condition: Wheeler must submit to drug tests at times specified by the Court.
“Two matters investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta and the FBI-Atlanta Field Division have connections to the international investigation into AlphaBay announced today,” the NDGA announcement read. “First, an investigation conducted in Atlanta has identified an AlphaBay staffer living in the United States,” the release explained. “That investigation is ongoing.” The second, an outdated and completely unrelated case, involved the sentencing of the Alphabay vendor “IcyEagle.”
Federal prosecutors wrote that Wheeler head allegedly worked with Alexandre Cazes, the late owner of Alphabay – according to the United States government and some fairly damning evidence. The prosecutors noted that Wheeler had worked with Cazes from March 2015 until the FBI and RCMP seized Alphabay servers in July.
According to the filing, Wheeler worked for Cazes under the pseudonyms “Trappy” and “Trappy_Pandora.” Oddly enough, the filing mentioned only Trappy’s Alphabay activities—it neglected the Alphabay-specific username “Trappy_AB.” If federal investigators collected evidence on the 24-year-old, they likely discovered that “Pandora” stood for something other than Alphabay. No allegations regarding the other ventures surfaced either.
His last post on Reddit began, “I have been in touch with our devs and admins and they are working to restore AlphaBay as soon as possible.” Although Alphabay likely had more than a single server, the market apparently had only one admin. Cazes had masqueraded as alpha02 and DeSnake, his indictment explained. Days after Trappy’s post, one user replied, “LOL what now? you’re unemployed and probably being hunted by 3 countries.”
US Prosecutors said that Wheeler, working alongside Cazes “and others,” trafficked stolen information and bank account numbers. They illegally facilitated the trade of the stolen information “without authorization.” At the beginning of Trappy’s employment, Alphabay was young and still budding; centrally located between the “best” and “worst” darknet drug markets. Alphabay ranked high on the darknet “fraud” market list though. Much of the success surrounding digital item sales originated from rumors pushed by marketplace staff. Both DeSnake and Trappy pushed the notion that Russian fraudsters had created Alphabay.
If the court convicts Wheeler of his crimes as a glorified Reddit mod connected to Alphabay, they will seize all assets earned during his time as an employee of Cazes. As a criminal associate of Alphabay, Trappy hardly earned enough to cover legal fees. As a public relations specialist, the Illinois man did fairly well for himself; he had allegedly earned what currently amounts to $130,000. He will be required to forfeit 14 bitcoins and $27,000 in cash.
In July, DeepDotWeb published the article about the Georgia FBI’s claims of “helping” with the Alphabay investigation. They said they had identified another suspect in the Alphabay case. The facts lined up against Trappy, but it was up to the readers to draw their own conclusions. For the most part, that is.
Readers finished reading that article with the conclusion that the FBI had identified Trappy. And they had clearly drawn the right conclusion—assuming Wheeler ultimately enters a guilty plea.