Feds Provide $400,000 to Portland Police to Investigate Dark Web and COVID-19 Fraudsters

The federal government has awarded a $400,000 grant to the Portland Police Bureau for anonymously browsing the dark web and making undercover purchases to investigate and prosecute intellectual property crimes such as economic espionage, mass counterfeiting and piracy, particularly those related to public health and safety.

On Dec. 8, the Portland City Council will vote on whether to accept the grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice through its Intellectual Property Enforcement Program.

If approved, $220,797 of the grant will be allocated to the Police Department's Cybercrime Unit for the first year of the two-year program, with the remainder carried over to the next fiscal year. (The Police Department has previously received grants through this DOJ program).

The allocation shows that federal officials are still working closely with Portland-area law enforcement and the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office in the wake of the 2020 racial justice protests.

Mayor Ted Wheeler, who oversees the police department, labeled the agenda item as an "emergency ordinance. That's because the city has 45 days to accept the money, according to his office.

According to Wheeler, "This grant provides our Cyber Crime Unit with the resources necessary to help stop counterfeit goods from entering the Portland marketplace. In addition to providing financial resources, this program creates tools to educate our community about intellectual property crimes."

In the budget document, the city noted the task force's recent involvement in successful online fraud investigations, including a counterfeit airbag purchased by a Hillsboro auto repair store that was linked to a larger faulty airbag operation in Bulgaria; a Happy Valley business that purchased counterfeit gun parts from China and sold them online; and an ongoing investigation by Portland police and the Houston Police Bureau "related to the sale of multinational counterfeit N95 masks to U.S. first responders."

The budget document states that the funds will be used to "aggressively target, investigate and prosecute individuals and/or criminal organizations that commit state and federal intellectual property crimes. The budget document says the task force will use "a variety of investigative techniques, including Internet investigations of e-commerce sites (eBay, Amazon), classified ad sites (e.g., Craigslist, OfferUp, etc.), social media sites, and the dark web to identify individuals and organizations trafficking in [criminal IP] products. "

The majority of the funds will be used to pay the salaries of task force members and outside consultants. About 40 percent of the funds will be used for overtime for the 10 Portland police officers assigned to the task force, and more than a third will be paid in the form of consulting fees to employees from five local law enforcement agencies who are also members of the task force.

How the Police Department plans to spend the money.

A $24,700 contract with Authentic8 for its website creation and hosting services, as well as licenses for Silo, Authentic8's cloud browser, and "dark web tools," which support anonymous web searches. According to budget documents, the six Silo licenses will allow the task force to conduct "discreet investigations": "The Internet provides an easy way for independent online sites to sell counterfeit goods. silo will allow investigators to access these sites without being discovered by law enforcement. "

Approximately $170,000 is for overtime for 10 police department employees in the task force, including a supervising sergeant, six detectives and three officers," the budget document says. The overtime allows for grant project work in addition to the daily workload of project personnel."

The consulting fees for the five local partner agencies are approximately $150,000: Beaverton Police Department, Woodburn Police Department, Washington County Sheriff's Office, Washington County District Attorney's Office, and the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office.

Approximately $25,000 to cover travel costs to attend IP crime related training and conferences in Los Angeles, Orlando, FL, Arlington, VA, etc.

Approximately $4,500 to cover membership fees for IP crime investigation organizations.

From:On DarkNet – Dark Web News and Analysis
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