Investigators close in on Greece native selling unpublished stock information.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has brought civil charges against Apostolos Trovias in Manhattan, New York, saying Trovias told an undercover Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agent posing as a customer on the dark web that some stock information he obtained was “sensitive” and “illegal to use or share.” Insider trading is the trading of a public company’s securities based on nonpublic information.
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 insider stock information on the dark web’s AlphaBay Market.” Federal authorities recently unsealed a criminal indictment against Trovias who they have indicated is a fugitive, charging him with securities fraud and money laundering.
Trovias sold information on stocks since December 2016 after registering on the AlphaBay Market and taking $99.95 weekly or $299 monthly from customers hoping to get access to the information he had in his possession. The site was in operation for approximately six months, but Trovias then began using encrypted messages and email services to communicate with his customers. Among the data he sold was a pre-released earnings reports from publicly traded companies.
The indictment also contends, “At various times between in or about June 2017 and February 2020, TROVIAS sold Inside Information directly to purchasers, using encrypted messaging and email services to communicate about the sale, rather than exclusively through the marketplace features of the Dark Web forums. For instance, TROVIAS offered for sale and did sell, among other confidential information belonging to various securities issuers, for approximately $5,000 in Bitcoin, at least one pre-release earnings report misappropriated from a publicly-traded company.” Strauss said, “Trovias tried to hide his insider trading scheme behind anonymizing software, screen names, and bitcoin payments.” Yet, investigators were able to link the activity to his real identity.
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. added, “Behind the veil of the Dark Web, using encrypted messaging applications and emails, Trovias created a business model in which he sold, for profit, proprietary information from other companies, stock trading tips, pre-release earnings, and other inside information, as we allege. 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.”
The SEC said of the indictment, “Some of the over 100 customers Trovias signed up for subscriptions were undercover agents of the IRS and FBI.” The agency added, “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.” That link is what allowed investigators to file charges.
The government is continually taking down those who do business in the dark recesses of the internet. It is unclear whether Trovias has been taken into custody since he has been on the run.