ATLANTA – Ronald L. Wheeler, III, a/k/a Trappy, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit access device fraud for working as a public relations specialist for the Dark Web Marketplace AlphaBay.
“Wheeler spent hours on the Dark Web and general Internet providing AlphaBay users tips for attempting to avoid detection by law enforcement,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “His plea is the end of his nefarious career as an AlphaBay promoter.”
“If people think the Dark Web gives them autonomy to operate illegally behind a cyber-curtain without the scrutiny of law enforcement, then Mr. Wheeler’s plea is a stark reminder that we won’t let that happen,” said David J. LeValley, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta. “We will not stop diligently prosecuting those who choose to disobey our laws and threaten our communities.”
“In pleading guilty, Ronald Wheeler has become another example that you cannot hide behind the anonymity created by the Darkweb,” said Thomas J. Holloman, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation. “IRS-CI, with its law enforcement partners, will continue to take every step in taking down those who create and facilitate Dark Web sites while attempting to hide their illegal profits by seeking payment in digital currencies such as Bitcoin.”
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court: Ronald L. Wheeler III a/k/a Trappy conspired with Alexandre Cazes a/k/a Alpha02 a/k/a Admin, and others to commit access device fraud through the operation of The Onion Routing (“TOR”) Dark Web marketplace AlphaBay. AlphaBay was an international criminal marketplace that enabled users to purchase and sell stolen and fraudulently obtained access devices, illegal drugs, firearms, hacking tools, and other illicit goods and services. Sales listings on the website were organized into categories, including “Fraud,” “Drugs & Chemicals,” “Counterfeit Items,” “Weapons,” and “Carded Items.”
Shortly before AlphaBay was shut down by law enforcement, the website contained thousands of sales listings for illegal products, including approximately 4,488 sales listings for stolen personally identifying information; 28,800 sales listings for stolen online account information; 6,008 sales listings for stolen credit card information; 3,586 sales listings for computer hacking tools, such as botnets and exploit kits; and 257,533 sales listings for illegal drugs, including cocaine, heroin, and a variety of opioids. The sales of stolen personally identifying information, online account information, and credit card information all provided fertile grounds for access device fraud to flourish on the Dark Web. Aside from product listings, AlphaBay provided message board forums where users could securely discuss their criminal activities and receive support from AlphaBay staffers.
On or about May 25, 2015, Wheeler began working as a public relations specialist for AlphaBay. Wheeler’s duties included moderating the AlphaBay subreddit on the internet website reddit.com; moderating the AlphaBay message board forums; mediating sales disputes among AlphaBay users; promoting AlphaBay on the internet; and providing non-technical assistance to AlphaBay users. In return for his work, Wheeler received a salary in Bitcoin. Throughout his participation in the conspiracy, Wheeler advised the public on how to access AlphaBay and encouraged the public to use the website. Wheeler’s work with AlphaBay continued until early July 2017, when the FBI and its international law enforcement partners shut down the website.
Sentencing for Ronald Wheeler, III, a/k/a Trappy, 24, of Streamwood, Illinois has been scheduled for May 24, 2018 at 2:00 p.m., before U.S. District Judge Leigh M. May.
This case is being investigated by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Samir Kaushal is prosecuting the case. Substantial assistance was provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov(link sends e-mail) or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.