A Louisiana man was charged in a two-count information with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit trademark counterfeiting using the “Silk Road” online marketplace, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite Jr. of the Eastern District of Louisiana.
“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 Caldwell. “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.”
According to allegations in the information, Beau Wattigney, 30, of New Orleans, Louisiana, created counterfeit coupons and used Silk Road to sell them. Silk Road was a worldwide Internet forum used to anonymously sell illegal drugs, goods and services. Wattigney allegedly used Silk Road 1.0 until it was dismantled by federal officials in October 2013, and Silk Road 2.0 until it was dismantled in November 2014.
According to the information, Wattigney designed the coupons to look like print-at-home manufacturers’ coupons. The coupons included counterfeit trademarks for many prominent coupon distribution services, including Hopster, Coupons.com, SmartSource and RedPlum. Wattigney allegedly sold a selection of counterfeit coupons entitled “The Original S.R. Exclusive Coupon Collection” for approximately $50.00. Additionally, one counterfeit coupon Wattigney allegedly created and sold allowed users to purchase $50.00 Visa Gift Cards for $.01 each. The coupons Wattigney allegedly sold on Silk Road 1.0 and 2.0 affected more than 50 manufacturers, retailers and online coupon distributors. If redeemed, the counterfeit coupons could have resulted in a loss of more than $1,000,000 to the affected businesses.
The charges contained in the information are merely accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Philadelphia Division, with assistance from the FBI’s New Orleans Division. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Counsel Marie-Flore Johnson, Gavin Corn and Robert Wallace of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jordan Ginsberg of the Eastern District of Louisiana.