Federal authorities say they are seeking a fugitive who tried to create a marketplace in the dark spaces of the internet for those with an appetite for inside information on stocks.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said Apostolos Trovias, 30, of Athens, Greece, identified himself online as “The Bull” as he solicited and offered to sell inside information.
Federal authorities unsealed a criminal indictment against him on Friday, charging him with securities fraud and money laundering.
They said he’s sold inside information on stocks since December 2016, when he registered a “Dark Web" internet site known as AlphaBay Market where he charged individuals $99.95 weekly or $299 monthly subscriptions to get access to inside information on stocks.
The “Dark Web" is an area of the internet where hidden identities flourish, allowing individuals to set up marketplaces for various illegal products and services such as illegal drugs, stolen identities and computer hacking.
The site only operated for about six months but Trovias then began using encrypted messaging and email services to communicate with customers, authorities said. Online, he used an avatar, labeling himself as “The Bull," they said.
Among information Trovias sold was a pre-release earnings report misappropriated from a publicly traded company, they said.
Strauss said in a release that Trovias tried to hide his insider trading scheme behind anonymizing software, screennames, and bitcoin payments.
William F. Sweeney Jr., head of New York's FBI office, said Trovias created a business model so he could sell steal and sell inside information while hiding his footprints.
“The FBI operates within the Dark Web too, and as Trovias learned today, we don’t stop enforcing the law just because you commit federal crimes from behind a router with your keyboard,” he said.
The Securities and Exchange Commission brought civil charges against Trovias on Friday in Manhattan, saying Trovias told an Internal Revenue Service agent posing online as a customer that some information he obtained was “sensitive and more importantly illegal to use or share."
The SEC said some of the over 100 customers Trovias signed up for subscriptions were undercover agents of the IRS and FBI.
The SEC said Trovias agreed online last August to meet with two FBI agents posing as customers. When the FBI agents said they were based in the United States, Trovias said he was too, the SEC said.