COVID-19 Domain Seized After Attempted Sale for BTC https://t.co/uOWhBbEFwe #Bitcoin pic.twitter.com/1aBf7xubtA — GbrilliantQ (@GbrilliantQ) April 26, 2020
It has been reported that the action follows Attorney General William Barr’s request that the department prioritizes detecting and prosecuting illegal activities related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, a warrant obtained by the US Department of Justice alleges that the owner of coronaprevention.org listed the domain for sale “on a hackers forum” the day after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in response to COVID-19.
It has been analyzed that the seller’s ad promoted the domain as an effective means to sell “high markup in-demand products,” pricing the site at a premium.
Likewise, an affidavit included in the warrant from Michael Johnson, a Special Agent with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) since 2003, states that on April 13, an HSI officer engaged the domain’s owner on the forum.
Johnson pretended to be selling fake coronavirus test kits, which the site’s owner described as “genius” by adding that they had intended to sell fraudulent tests but “couldn’t get enough cash to bulk buy them from Alibaba.”
It has also been analyzed that the owner requested $500 worth of BTC for the domain, with the HSI agent making a partial payment on April 20.
Consequently, Johnson states that there is probable cause suggesting that the domain’s owner “has laundered monetary instruments, caused the laundering of monetary instruments, and aided and abetted the laundering of monetary instruments,” as the domain has taken down and redirected to the Justice Department’s notice of seizure.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen vendors on dark web marketplaces selling catalogs of fraudulent items related to COVID-19.
Besides fake antidotes and vaccines, surgical masks, hand sanitizer, and even toilet paper are being sold at an exorbitant premium on numerous darknet markets.
Thus, one seller was identified to be offering bats of blood and saliva that are supposedly infected with COVID-19.