Two Men Charged With Running Darknet Marketplace Empire Market

Federal prosecutors in Illinois have charged two men with owning and operating Empire Market, a darknet marketplace, according to court documents filed Friday.

Prosecutors say Thomas Pavey, 38, of Florida, and Raheim Hamilton, 28, of Virginia, owned and operated Empire Market from 2018 to 2020. During the period Empire Market operated, prosecutors say the pair processed $430 million in transactions on the site, which allowed users to anonymously purchase illegal goods and services.

According to a Thursday press release from the Department of Justice (DOJ), Empire Market was used to sell things like drugs and stolen credit card information. All transactions were made with cryptocurrency. Empire Market shut down in August 2020.

Pavey and Hamilton were already in custody for separate charges – prosecutors had previously charged the pair with allegedly selling counterfeit currency on another darknet market, AlphaBay, which shut down in 2017.

The new charges against Pavey and Hamilton include conspiring to engage in drug trafficking, computer fraud, access device fraud, counterfeiting, and money laundering. According to the DOJ’s press release, the charges against both men are punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Law enforcement seized $75 million in cryptocurrency during the investigation, along with an unspecified amount of cash and precious metals, the press release said.

Arraignments for Pavey and Hamilton have not yet been scheduled.