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Louisiana man allegedly sold fake coupons on dark Web

The Department of Justice has accused a Louisiana resident of selling counterfeit coupons over the anonymous online marketplace known as the Silk Road.

The man allegedly behind the scheme, 30-year-old New Orleans resident Beau Wattigney, is being charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit trademark counterfeiting.

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The charges are part of the Department of Justice’s broader effort to crack down on the cyber crime driven by the vast underground markets on the dark Web, which hides the identity of its users.

“Anonymous online marketplaces have provided criminals with the ability to conduct illegal operations worldwide while seemingly insulating them from apprehension and prosecution,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell in a statement Thursday.

According to the DOJ, Wattigney used the Silk Road to sell what appeared to be print-at-home coupons.

He gave the vouchers a sheen of authenticity by using the trademarks for well-known coupon distributors like Hopster, Coupons.com, SmartSource and RedPlum. Wattigney also profited off a voucher allegedly allowing people to buy $50 Visa Gift Cards for a penny each.

The DOJ said more than 50 companies could have been affected by Wattigney’s actions. If each counterfeit coupon he sold were redeemed, DOJ officials estimated it would result in the loss of over $1 million to these businesses.

In the past year, the DOJ has been aggressively targeting the Silk Road and other dark Web marketplaces.

The department recently secured the conviction of Ross Ulbricht, the man behind the original Silk Road, which sold virtually any illicit good or service, including drugs and allegedly murder for hire.

The site was shut down in late 2013, but various imitators have popped up since. Federal law enforcement officials last fall brought down hundreds of websites accused of selling illegal goods in a major dark Web sweep.

These sites operate over the Tor network, which sends users’ activity through a series of nodes, cloaking their identity and location. Customers also use largely untraceable digital currencies like bitcoin to make transactions.

“The Criminal Division is determined to peel back the veil of anonymity and prosecute criminals of all stripes who attempt to use the ‘dark Web’ to cloak their illegal conduct,” Caldwell said Thursday.