Alexandre Cazes was described by his family as a genius and an extraordinary young man who had no criminal record and never smoked or did drugs. He was originally from Canada but he later moved to Thailand and owned vacation homes in different countries. During his teenage years, he started his first company, EBX Technologies, where he sold computers and aided small businesses with setting up their websites. As most of you probably already know, he is known for creating and running the AlphaBay market, the largest darknet market in history.
AlphaBay was a unique market in many ways. Launched in 2014, the site saw quick and steady growth. About one year after it was founded, a digital contract system was introduced where users could initiate contracts for $5. This digital contract system would allow any type of deal to be linked to a user’s reputation and allowed users to put almost anything they wanted into the contract. If one party violated the contract, they could raise a dispute with the market staff. Users who were found to have violated the contract would have it mentioned on their profile page as a warning to other users, and users who continuously violated their contracts would be banned.
AlphaBay was notable for being a darknet market that accepted payments in several different cryptocurrencies. In 2016, after announcing their support for Monero, the price of Monero increased by over %600. On March 18 of 2017, AlphaBay announced their support for Ethereum, and after it was reported by the news, the price of Ethereum went up over %300, from about $12 to over $50.
An administrator, presumably Alexandre, stated the following in a post on Reddit: “You can see AlphaBay like a bank: While we allow people to deposit and withdraw at will, drugs are merely a product to attract customer. The cold wallet coins aren’t just standing there: We invest in various things anonymously, make money with those investments, while always ensuring to run at 100 percent reserve. We won’t go into details, but there are thousands of ways to make money by investing Bitcoin online.”
Some researchers believe that AlphaBay’s staff were hording Monero and Ethereum, and intentionally manipulated the price of those coins with the announcements of their integration into the market.
According to American prosecutors, Alexandre was using EBX Technologies as a cover business to “justify his banking activity and substantial cryptocurrency holdings”.
Alexandre Cazes made many millions from his drug market and he lived quite a luxurious lifestyle for a while. He owned four properties in Thailand, drove a $1000,000 Lamborghini, owned properties in Cyprus and Antigua, and his net worth in total exceeded $23,000,000. He also had a Villa in Thailand and bank accounts in multiple different countries. But he only got to enjoy that lifestyle for so long until his arrest, which happened because his OPSEC was very, very poor. He was indicted by a grand jury on June 1 of 2017 and later arrested in Thailand on July 5.
His first major mistake was using his personal email address, [email protected], as the “From” email for user password resets on AlphaBay, and appeared in the welcome email header sent to users in 2014. The email address was linked to his LinkedIn account as well as his legitimate computer repair business. This made it really easy for law enforcement to find out who was behind AlphaBay.
The AlphaBay servers were hosted at a company in Canada and were directly linked to his identity. Another nail in his legal coffin.
He use to frequently boast about his financial success online, mainly on a forum called RooshV, and he even posted a video of himself driving a luxury car after users did not believe he bought the car. All of that was just plain dumb. Being rich and boasting about it to random people is never a good idea, even if you made the money legally, because nothing good can come of it and you’re painting a target on your back as you’ll eventually find yourself on the radar of thieves and malicious people if you keep doing it. In his case, it allowed for law enforcement to find his geographical location and made his association with AlphaBay undeniable.
After law enforcement raided his residence in Thailand, they found his computer open, fully unencrypted and was logged into both his administrative accounts for the AlphaBay market and the AlphaBay forum. They also discovered that he made a list of all of his assets and where they were located around the world, which made it tremendously easy for officials to seize all of his assets.
He also used a username on AlphaBay that he had previously used on tech forums since at least 2008. Another newbie mistake.
It’s clear that Alexandre Cazes made many fundamental OPSEC mistakes, some of which are very similar to those made by the Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht.
AlphaBay was not the first darknet market to implement alternative cryptocurrency payment systems, but it really helped pave the way for future markets to do the same. The take down of the site was the beginning of the end of the golden age of darknet markets.
Alexandre Cazes had a strong love for both women and money. On the RooshV forum, he posted advice on picking up Thai women, bragged about getting a “solid prenup”, and slept with women outside of his marriage. Joé Lacerte, a friend of Alexandre, said during live interview with Radio-Canada, “He was always an extremely brilliant guy. I don’t know, the fact that he was a guy who really liked money, that made me feel like he was going to do a scam at some point”.
I think there might be something to what Joé Lacerte was saying. If Alexandre was never arrested and AlphaBay wasn’t seized, I think the most likely eventual demise of AlphaBay would have been an exit scam. I could be wrong, but he really did like money and he even mentioned that drugs were just a product to attract customers. And he did not seem like a person to have a strong moral fiber, he even cheated on his own wife, so if he ever got tired of running the market or if the market had enough money in escrow or both, it seems to me that he likely would have exit scammed eventually. Do you really think that if he wanted to stop running AlphaBay and shut it down, he would have disabled deposits and allowed users to withdrawal the millions of dollars worth of crypto out of his site?
There is not a lot of information available about Alexandre Cazes on the web, he died in prison a week after his arrest from what law enforcement claims was suicide, so we never got to collect more information about him from what would have been his trial in court and since he is dead, he cannot provide any info about himself.
Supposedly he never used drugs before, maybe that could have been a factor as to why he made such fundamental OPSEC mistakes. Using certain drugs can make people experience REAL paranoia and people who experience paranoia are far more prone to taking their OPSEC a lot more seriously.
I’m sure some of you have probably ordered drugs on the darknet and later got really stoned and saw a cop car parked in your neighborhood near your house and experienced heart-pounding paranoia while thinking that the cops knew you bought drugs online and thought they were coming for you, but you later realized they were doing something with your neighbors and their presence had nothing to do with you, but the situation made you want to take your OPSEC more seriously because you didn’t want the next time to be the real deal. If you have ever been in a situation like this, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
It might not be a good idea to run a drug market when you have never done drugs before, you can not relate to most of your site’s users, and having no experience using drugs means that you can give drug-related advice that you personally know for a fact, and you cannot personally verify drug-related advice given by users to other users on your platform, someone could say a deadly combo is beneficial for health and you usually would not know if it is without asking someone else with experience or researching on the web.
Alexandre Cazes was a computer genius with a lot of potential. He knew coding, web security and development, photoshop, you name it, he could probably do it. He could have made a lot of money from making I.T related tutorials, he could have gotten many high paying jobs, he could have made a cryptocurrency, there were so many ways he could have gotten rich from his I.T expertise. But he chose to create and operate a drug market instead, which ended up being a terrible idea, especially having been a non-drug user.