DarkMarket Mastermind Jailed After Pleading Guilty

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

A former London pizza delivery man, who admitted to orchestrating the notorious DarkMarket crime forum, is now in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy

The kingpin behind the secretive criminal website, DarkMarket, has been sentenced to a prison term of up to 10 years, after he confessed to mastering the cyber criminal trading haven.

Sri Lanka-born Renukanth Subramaniam, from North London, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and five counts of furnishing false information at Blackfriars Crown Court. He was remanded in custody at his own request.

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DarkMarket has been described as the “eBay for criminals”. The one-stop-shop for criminals was in fact a website that had a membership of up to 2,500 online fraudsters at its peak. It offered a chance for members to trade stolen credit cards, as well as sell and exchange other financial information such as PIN numbers, the answers to people’s security questions for their bank accounts, as well as other information such as logins and passwords for social networking sites.

Indeed, the site was so sophisticated that it was said to offer fraudsters a safe and secure payment “escrow” service. It included advertising space so that criminals could market the tools they employed to clone bank and credit cards, as well as everything needed to set up a credit card factory.

The site also offered online tutorials for helping criminals with techniques that could be used in account takeovers, as well as money laundering, and credit card deceptions.

33 year old Subramaniam is a British citizen, and his day-to-day job included working at Pizza Hut and as a dispatch courier. However, he was also one of the top administrators of the DarkMarket website, that went by the online tag of JiLsi.

Some reports say that Subramaniam was caught after the US Secret Service and the FBI infiltrated the DarkMarket site, by posing as criminals. Other reports state that the website had in fact been secretly run from an FBI facility in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as part of a sting undercover operation to catch as many criminals as possible. The site was shut down in October 2008.

Apparently authorities detected Subramaniam logging on to the website as JiLsi, but he was unaware that the fellow criminal (MasterSplyntr) he was talking to was, in fact, an FBI agent called Keith Mularski.

Keith Mularski is a supervisory special agent at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Cyber Initiative & Resource Fusion Unit, and last October he spoke at the RSA Conference Europe event in London.