Image: Hal Gatewood via Unsplash
Image: Hal Gatewood via Unsplash

Man charged with running $18 million ‘Monopoly’ darknet marketplace

The U.S. Department of Justice charged a 33-year-old citizen of Croatia and Serbia with allegedly operating a drug trafficking platform called Monopoly Market on the darknet.

Milomir Desnica is accused of launching and running Monopoly since late 2019, using the platform to facilitate the sale of various drugs including opioids, stimulants, psychedelics, and prescription medications. He made approximately $18 million on the platform through cryptocurrency transactions, the DOJ said.

According to the indictment released Friday, Desnica has been wanted by law enforcement since last July, and was recently extradited from Austria to face charges in Washington, D.C. The charges against him include money laundering, as well as possession and distribution of approximately 50 grams of methamphetamine.

Desnica allegedly used at least two cryptocurrency exchange services to launder his illicit proceeds. He then sold the cryptocurrency to Serbia-based peer-to-peer traders in exchange for fiat currency — all in an effort to “clean” his earnings, prosecutors said.

If proven guilty, Desnica could potentially face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and financial penalties.

Monopoly Market

Earlier in May, Europol announced the arrest of 288 individuals connected to drug trafficking on Monopoly Market. The arrests were made two years after German authorities secretly seized control of the market's infrastructure.

The operation allowed law enforcement to secretly track drug sales and payments made on the marketplace, as well as analyze communications between the market's operator and vendors. It was through this investigation that law enforcement identified Desnica as the operator of Monopoly Market.

The Monopoly Market takedown was one of the largest law enforcement actions taken against a darknet marketplace. The resulting arrests overshadowed the 150 arrests made following the takedown of DarkMarket in 2021, and 179 following the takedown of Wall Street Market in 2019.

Law enforcement also seized more than $53.4 million in cash and virtual currencies, as well as 850 kilograms of drugs.

Although law enforcement authorities said the arrests won’t disrupt the larger underground drug economy, taking out a market does “disrupt the situation for some time,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland.

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Daryna Antoniuk

Daryna Antoniuk

is a reporter for Recorded Future News based in Ukraine. She writes about cybersecurity startups, cyberattacks in Eastern Europe and the state of the cyberwar between Ukraine and Russia. She previously was a tech reporter for Forbes Ukraine. Her work has also been published at Sifted, The Kyiv Independent and The Kyiv Post.