It’s been a year and a half since the popular and innovative darknet market “Monopoly” went offline. It was originally thought that their downtime was a simple result of Dark0de’s DDoS attacks. But the market didn’t come back online. Their market was designed in a way that an Exit Scam was not possible… So this left two possible outcomes. The Admin threw up his hands and gave up on the marketplace… or there was a Law Enforcement takeover. We now have proof to conclude it was the latter. On July 26, 2022, Monopoly Market’s head admin was indicted. This opened a whole can of worms. Let’s look into it.
Monopoly Market LE TakeOver
On December 29th, 2021 Monopoly market crashed alongside another darknet market, Cartel. Both market admins went silent, and staff members explained on Dread that they did not even know what was happening. They explained that there was no word from the market admin, and the markets had remained completely offline.
The first conclusion many came to was that Monopoly Market was going through the same DDoS attacks that all other markets went through. However, as days went on, more assumed it was a server seizure.
The Monopoly Markets system was built in a way to prevent the worry of an exit scam. They used a unique “Userless feature”. This meant the site didn’t have an onsite wallet and did not require users to log into an account when making an order. Their only payment method is Direct XMR Payment to trusted Vendors.
Since Monopoly Market’s only source of income of funds came from Vendor Bonds, and commission on sales, an exit scam was highly unlikely.
“I’m going to be honest, I am not 100% sure this was a planned exit scam. I mean, we all know the dude was… partial, to say the least, to hard stimulants, and I don’t mean caffeine. Take a look at his most recent comments and tell me it doesn’t strike you as a guy, either stimmed out of his mind or going through the worst case of meth psychosis known to man, who’s accidentally either fucked something important right up and doesn’t want to admit it, or got fucked by someone else.
In my opinion, it probably wasn’t an exit at the beginning… but of course, he could still make it one.”One Dread user wrote
However, behind the scenes, something else was cooking.
Monopoly Servers Seized
While darknet users were making all kinds of assumptions about Dread, Law Enforcement was in the process of taking Monopoly down along with its admin.
In December 2021, in coordination with foreign law enforcement partners in Germany and Finland, the computer server hosting Monopoly was seized and taken offline.
For unknown reasons, it seems the admin was gathering more data than he let on. In fact, this “Userless” Darknet Market lead to one of the most successful Darknet Market removals of all time as Law enforcement gathered information and apprehended over 280 Darknet Vendors from intel found on Monopoly market servers.
Once taking control over the servers, the team analysed every peice of data. In this, law enforcement identified records of the hundreds of narcotics sales facilitated by Monopoly. They found financial records documenting cryptocurrency payments on Monopoly, an online forum associated with Monopoly, communications from the Monopoly operator to vendors, commission payment invoices and more.
And finally, after some extensive digging into the server records, one individual was named the operator of this darknet marketplace. Milomir Desnica
Milomir Desnica AKA Monopoly Market Admin
A 33-year-old Croation citizen by the name of Milomir Desnica was extradited from Austria and charged with running a criminal darknet narcotics marketplace. In addition to running the platform, it seems Desnica sold narcotics of his own. He received additional charges for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine and atleast one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.
The indictment comes with many more claims as Desnica awaits his trial. According to the DOJ, Desnica started Monopoly back in 2019 and allowed the sale of illicit narcotics, including opioids, stimulants, psychedelics, and prescription medications, among other drugs, to take place.
As the website was “Userless” all vendors had to be established. To join, vendors had to complete an application to sell their products on Monopoly, which included providing descriptions of the drugs they wanted to sell, photographic proof of their inventory, and an agreement to pay a commission for sales completed through Monopoly.
Desnica held records of all his vendors for an unknown reason, but likely to blackmail them should anything turn sour. This lead to the arrest of hundreds of vendors who trusted the marketplace. The hundreds arrested were a result of “Operation SpecTor“.
“One data table was labeled “payments.” This table listed details of the invoices sent to the vendors and the bitcoin or Monero address in which the vendor should transfer the funds to pay the operator of Monopoly for the monthly fee based on sales. The table also included invoice numbers, vendor IDs, amounts, whether the invoice was paid or not, and the date and time of the invoice. For invoices prior to October 22, 2021, the contents of the payment address field had been deleted, but the remaining information was intact.”According to the momorandum.
Members from multiple Law Enforcement agencies came together to apprehend Desnica. This includes Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation; Europol; Germany’s Bundeskriminalamt; Austria’s Bundeskriminalamt Cybercrime Competency Center, FAST team, and Public Prosecutors Office Vienna; and the Republic of Serbia High-Tech Crimes Prosecutor.
How Monopoly Market Went Down
In 2021, the FBI investigated the marketplace by placing and receiving numerous orders for narcotics on Monopoly from various vendors. The LE was able to order more than 100 grams of methamphetamine on Monopoly.
Information on how they triangulated the server and captured the host is not too clear, but we now know that law enforcement partners in Germany and Finland seized the server and took it offline.
With records of all of Desnica’s transactions, investigators traced his cryptocurrencies to at least two decentralized exchanges. Here Desnica attempted to move the funds across multiple chains as a method to clean his proceedings before selling the crypto for cash.
Desnica used MoonPay.io in Serbia. He took the p2p exchange route to collect fiat currency and laundered the cash from there.
“The FBI identified two bitcoin deposits from MoonPay.io (MoonPay) into the wallet… MoonPay provided records indicating the bitcoin deposited into the wallet was purchased by Desnica through an account registered with a Google account. Additional details indicate Desnica purchased the bitcoin using credit cards ending in 8077 and 0719. The account registered to Desnica was linked to Desnica’s gmail address of [email protected].”According to the momorandum.
Additionally, Desnica used a Serbian IP address to access the fakkura@gmail account within minutes of the Monopoly operator using the same IP address to exchange cryptocurrency. His email address contained the seed phrases needed to access some of the Monopoly operator’s bitcoin wallets.
All this information that the LE found revealed Desnica’s identity and allowed the Austrian Fugitive Active Search Team (FAST) to locate and arrest him.
“He is directly tied to Monopoly Market by various social media, personal email accounts, and the seed phrases needed for Monopoly’s bitcoin wallet,”An FBI representitive
They also held a warrant to search his residence, where they searched and confiscated Desnica’s vehicle, electronics, and cash. Monopoly Market saw approximately $18 million in revenue during its time. Desnica took a 5% interest from all orders meaning he earned atleast $900,000 in commission.
If proven guilty, Desnica could face 20 years to a maximum of life in prison for his crimes.
Hey there, I’m a dark web geek who’s been around for the last 8 years. More precisely, I’m livedarknet’s senior content writer who’s been writing about darknet marketplaces, tutorials, and cybersecurity stuff for educational purposes.