ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.
A federal judge has sentenced Beau Wattigney to 41 months in prison for manufacturing and selling counterfeit coupons through Silk Road, an anonymous online marketplace that trafficked almost anything before it was shut down by the FBI in October 2013. Wattigney was in the lucrative dark web trade of fake coupons from 2012 to 2014.
The 30-year-old man from New Orleans pleaded guilty to running the scheme with the help of several co-conspirators and that they made the coupons to appear like original print-at-ho me coupons using the trademark logos of other companies. The charges were the latest to be levelled against people who have dealt with illegal items on Silk Road – including the kingpin, Ross Ulbricht, who was sentenced to life in prison.
Most online profiles have identified Mr. Wattigney as a system support technician at the ITT Technical Institute. According to the Justice Department, Wattigney sold thousands of fake coupons over a period of two years, from 2012 to 2014, affecting more than 50 different companies in the US, representing a possible loss to the businesses of more than $1 million. Wattigney and his team used logos of popular coupon distributors such as SmartSource, Hopster, RedPlum and Coupons.com.
Under online monikers such as PurpleLotus, NickMode and GoldenLotus, Wattigney sold the counterfeit coupons for every product imaginable including cigarettes, alcohol, beauty products, cleaning supplies, video games, and consumer electronics. Wattigney also sold products like $50 Visa Gift Cards for around $0.01 each. Some of his vouchers were also sold in packs for around $54.44.
According to prosecutors, Wattigney steadily made more than $75,000 between 2012 and 2014. Since his initial arrest, authorities have been promoting his case as part of a wider crackdown on cybercrime. Over the last few years, authorities have stepped up the fight against cybercrime and shut down several anonymous online shops, including Silk Road.
In one court document relating to Wattigney’s confession, his defence team wrote that Wattigney created these fake coupons himself, and with the help of other co-conspirators, including one individual who operates under the nickname “wraith.”
Wattigney sold his coupons through the original Silk Road site and its successor, Silk Road 2.0, and distributed them throughout the country. On the Silk Road 2.0, Wattigney marketed the items with the help of another other co-conspirators, and created an entirely new identity, “CouponKing,” so as to have control of the entire fake coupon market, read court documents.
The Coupon Information Corporation, a non-profit association dedicated to fighting fraudulent coupons, bought hundreds of coupons from Wattigney as part of their investigations. The FBI also retrieved transaction histories and messages on Silk Road server as part of their investigation into Wattigney.
The same month Wattigney was charged with fraud, a group of vendors calling themselves TeamLotus wrote on The Hub that they were taking control after PurpleLotus had “retired.” TeamLotus’ dark web marketplace is offline currently, and the seller has been listed as “Vacation Mode” on yet another popular marketplace for fraudulent activities – AlphaBay.
While not mentioned in the charges, Wattigney offered lessons that taught people how to create fake coupons. In his guide, “The Art and Science of Coupon Creation,” Wattigney gives comprehensive instructions on how to create authentic-looking counterfeit coupons. Wattigney’s tutorial is already in circulation and apparently in use. So while he may be in prison, his handiwork lives on.
But authorities have said that Wattigney’s case should put other counterfeiters on notice. They are determined to pursue their own fight against those who create and sell fraudulent stuff of any kind online.