He Trained Cops to Fight Crypto Crime—and Allegedly Ran a $100M Dark-Web Drug Market

The message explained that Incognito was now essentially blackmailing its former users: It had stored their messages and transaction records, it said, and added that it would be creating a “whitelist portal” where users could pay a fee—which for some dealers would later be set as high as $20,000—to remove their data before all the incriminating information was leaked online at the end of this month. “YES THIS IS AN EXTORTION!!!” the message added.

In retrospect, Ormsby says that the site’s apparent user-friendliness and its security features were perhaps a multiyear con laying the groundwork for its endgame, a kind of user extortion never seen before in dark-web drug markets. “Maybe the whole thing was set up to create a false sense of security,” Ormsby says. “The extorting thing is completely new to me. But if you’ve lulled people into a sense of security, I guess it’s easier to extort them.”

In total, Incognito Market promised to leak more than half a million drug transaction records if buyers and sellers didn’t pay to remove them from the data dump. It’s still not clear whether the market’s administrator—Lin, according to prosecutors, whom they accuse of personally carrying out the extortion campaign—planned to follow through on the threat: He appears to have been arrested before the deadline set for the victims of the Incognito blackmail.

An Expert in ‘Anti Anti-Money Laundering’

At the same time the FBI says Lin was laying the groundwork for this double-cross, he also appears to have briefly tried engineering an entirely different scheme. In the summer of 2021, during Incognito Market’s relatively quiet first year, Lin’s alleged alter ego, Pharoah, launched a service called Antinalysis, a website designed to analyze blockchains and let users check—for a fee—whether their cryptocurrency could be connected to criminal transactions.

In a post to the dark-web market forum Dread, Pharoah made clear that Antinalysis was designed not to help anti-money-laundering investigators, but rather those who sought to evade them—presumably including his own dark-web market’s users. “Our goals do not lie in aiding the surveillance autocracy of state-sponsored agencies,” Pharoah’s post read. “This service is dedicated to individuals that have the need to possess complete privacy on the blockchain, offering a perspective from the opponent’s point of view in order for the user to comprehend the possibility of his/her funds getting flagged down under autocratic illegal charges.”

After independent cybersecurity reporter Brian Krebs wrote about the Antinalysis service in August 2021, describing it as an “anti anti-money laundering service for crooks,” Pharoah posted another message complaining that Antinalysis had lost access to its blockchain data source, which Krebs had identified as the anti-money-laundering tool AMLBot, and that it would be going offline. “Stay posted and fuck LE,” Pharoah wrote, using the abbreviation LE to mean “law enforcement.” Antinalysis eventually returned, however, and pivoted last year to acting instead as a service for swapping bitcoin for monero and vice versa.

Meanwhile, Lin appears to have maintained his obsession with cryptocurrency tracing and blockchain analysis: His final LinkedIn post last week before his arrest in New York announced that he had become a certified user of Reactor, the crypto tracing tool sold by blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis. “I’m excited to share that I’ve completed Chainalysis’s new qualification: Chainalysis Reactor Certification (CRC)!” Lin wrote in Mandarin. His last X post shows a Chainalysis diagram of money flows between dark-web markets and cryptocurrency exchanges.