A cybercriminal known as “The Bull” was stopped in its tracks by U.S. authorities for selling insider information on publicly traded companies on the dark web.
In recent days, the U.S. Southern District of New York and the FBI’s New York Field Office unsealed a criminal indictment and complaint against Greek national Apostolos Trovias, who goes by the pseudonym The Bull on the dark web as well as on encrypted messaging and email services. Trovias is accused of selling stock tips based on confidential customer trading information, pre-release earnings reports, and deal information.
He’s charged with one count of securities fraud and one count of money laundering, each of which carry maximum penalties of between 20 and 25 years in prison.
According to New York authorities, Trovias sold insider information to individuals in a variety of ways. From 2016 to 2017, he sold stock tips on the site on the dark web known as AlphaBay Market, which was the largest criminal marketplace for illicit goods on the internet before it was shut down.
Trovias wasn’t limited to AlphaBay though, and presumably had to find another medium for his activities when that site went away. Authorities say that between 2017 and 2020, he decided to go with the direct-to-consumer method and used encrypted messaging and email services to communicate with buyers. One of his notable transactions included a pre-release earnings report from a publicly traded company, which he sold for about $5,000 in bitcoin.
The Bull then reportedly decided scale up his insider trading operation, taking steps to design and build a website to sell his information. He had planned to charge membership fees and commissions from people who used the information he provided, authorities said.
In a news release about the charges, William F. Sweeney Jr., assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York field office, warned that his agency frequented the same places that Trovias did.
“The FBI operates within the Dark Web too,” Sweeney said. “[W]e don’t stop enforcing the law just because you commit federal crimes from behind a router with your keyboard.”
Considering the recent revelation that the FBI used fake encrypted honeypot phones to track and arrest individuals in transnational crime organizations, that seems like an understatement. Moral of the story: Don’t commit crimes on the internet. Or at all, please.