Monopoly Market Admin Gets 14 Years In Federal Prison

Monopoly Admin Arrested
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On December 29th, 2021, the Monopoly market crashed alongside another darknet market, leaving hundreds of top-tier vendors wondering what had happened. After months of silence from the admin, German LE put up a seizure notice indicating a successful market takedown. Now more than two years after one of the most unique darknet markets, “Monopoly Market”, went offline, its admin has been arrested and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Key Insights

  • Milomir Desnica, 34, was involved in the creation and operation of the Monopoly Market. Desnica was arrested in Austria in November 2022, and a search of his residence led to the seizure of electronic devices, cash, and cryptocurrency.
  • Monopoly Market operated from 2019 until its servers were seized in December 2021 by German and Finnish authorities.
  • The FBI conducted a forensic analysis of the seized server, identifying several Bitcoin wallets linked to the market.
  • He pleaded guilty to charges related to the distribution of methamphetamine and was sentenced to 14 years in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Carl J. Nichols on February 15, 2024.
  • Monopoly Market facilitated over $18 million in narcotics sales worldwide, including over 30 kilograms of meth to U.S. customers.
  • Law enforcement placed and received numerous orders on Monopoly for narcotics, documenting over 100 grams of methamphetamine purchases.
  • Desnica used a “Userless” feature for the market, requiring direct XMR payments to vendors, making an exit scam unlikely.
  • The seizure of Monopoly Market’s servers led to the identification and arrest of over 280 darknet vendors under Operation SpecTor

Milomir Desnica, a 34-year-old Serbian and Croatian national, was sentenced to 14 years in Federal prison for his role in operating the Monopoly Market, a darknet marketplace for illicit narcotics, facilitating over 30 kilograms of methamphetamine sales to U.S. customers. The operation ended with a coordinated law enforcement effort involving server seizure and analysis, leading to Desnica’s arrest and the dismantling of the marketplace.

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 doesn’t have an onsite wallet and does not require users to log into an account when making an order. Their only payment method is Direct XMR Payment to trusted Vendors. 

Since the Monopoly Market’s only source of income of funds came from Vendor Bonds and commission on sales, an exit scam was highly unlikely. Due to the timing of events, it’s still not 100% certain how the market went down. Some theories claim that the admin realised he was being traced/ had failed in an OpSec area, so he ended the operation; others just believe he was captured red-handed. But it took a few months after the website went down before LE finally added the takedown notice.

Monopoly Servers Seized

Monopoly Market

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 led to one of the most successful Darknet Market removals of all time as Law enforcement gathered information and apprehended 288 Darknet Vendors from intel found on Monopoly market servers, most known as Operation SpecTor

Desnica held records of all his vendors for an unknown reason but was likely to blackmail them should anything turn sour. This led to the arrest of hundreds of vendors who trusted the marketplace.

“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 memorandum

Once they took control of the servers, the team analysed every piece 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 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 at least 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.

Milomir Desnica, a national of Serbia and Croatia, was sentenced to 168 months in prison for operating the Monopoly Market, a dark net website that provided a vast online marketplace for the sale of illicit narcotics.

U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves

Naturally, his takedown was a result of a failed OpSec.

During a search of Milomir Desnica’s residence, authorities confiscated a range of electronic devices alongside a substantial sum of approximately 18,250 Euros in cash. In addition to the fiat currency, digital assets amounting to 0.2023 Ethereum (ETH) and 866 Tether (USDT) were also seized.

On November 8, 2023, Desnica entered a guilty plea to serious charges, including conspiracy to distribute and possession with the intent to distribute a significant quantity of methamphetamine, specifically 50 grams or more. As a result, he also provided detailed insights into his operational role within the Monopoly Market. He confessed to being the primary individual responsible for managing the technical aspects of the market’s backend infrastructure. Furthermore, Desnica was instrumental in the vetting process of vendor applications, ensuring that prospective sellers met the marketplace’s criteria before being allowed to conduct sales. His responsibilities also extended to customer service, where he personally addressed and resolved support tickets submitted by users of the marketplace.

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.

Opsec Failures Of a Darknet Admin

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 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) 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”