A Florida man has been accused of using cryptocurrency and the “Dark Web” in a fraudulent mail order scheme, which included shipping an illegally obtained package to the Virgin Islands, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.
The man, Kevin Perez Estevez, was charged Thursday with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to a seven-page information filed by Virgin Islands U.S. Attorney Nathan Brooks.
Brooks explained in the information that the Dark Web “refers to Internet web sites, including online marketplaces, only accessible by anonymizing web browsers such as The Onion Router,” more commonly known as “Tor.”
The browsers mask a user’s Internet Protocol address — a digital fingerprint that can be used to trace an individual’s online activity — and Dark Web marketplaces often require buyers to make purchases in cryptocurrency, an unregulated online monetary unit that is not stored in physical form.
Dark Web marketplaces have become a hotbed for criminal activity among users who want to buy and sell illegal drugs and make other illicit transactions without arousing the suspicion of law enforcement.
According to Brooks, several Dark Web marketplaces are used to buy and sell personal identifying information of “real, unsuspecting individuals,” and Estevez used such information to make fraudulent purchases between Jan. 2014 and Sept. 2020.
Estevez conspired with others to fraudulently obtain credit card numbers and shipping account numbers via Dark Web marketplaces, which were then used to purchase products from legitimate companies, according to Brooks. The sellers shipped the items to Estevez and co-conspirators’ addresses, and they would then “send the fraudulently obtained items to other co-conspirators to be sold elsewhere in the United States and the Dominican Republic,” and on legitimate online marketplaces.
On July 7, Estevez and others used the scheme to send a package containing “a retail beauty product” — purchased with a stolen credit card number — to the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the information.
The information includes a forfeiture allegation, meaning that if convicted, Estevez would have to surrender property obtained through the illegal scheme to the federal government. The forfeiture allegation specifically lists a Yamaha SVHO jet ski — which sells for upwards of $10,000 — a Maverick all-terrain vehicle, a Bank of America account, a Coinbase cryptocurrency account, a Paypal account, a TD Bank account, and a Chase Bank account.