The Hunt for the Dark Web’s Biggest Kingpin, Part 5: Takedown
Rabenn remembers the atmosphere of that war room as more dead silence and sweaty, anxious tension than eagerness or anticipation. He knew the possibility of achieving a Ross Ulbricht–style arrest and seizing Cazes’ laptop in a live, logged-in state—not to mention his phone—was a long shot at best. Even after all their international meetings and planning calls over the past months, and in spite of his usual hard-driving enthusiasm, Rabenn found himself quietly expecting their plan to fail.
Across the table, Sanchez was logged in to Roosh V. She checked Rawmeo’s profile and confirmed to the group that he was online and active: Cazes was at his keyboard. It was time.
Then, moments later, a voice piped up from the conference phone on the table. “Oh God,” it said. “We shut it down.”
It was the team in Lithuania. Somehow, the agents there had accidentally crashed the AlphaBay server before they could finish imaging it. In a matter of moments, Cazes would be tipped off that AlphaBay was down, possibly due to foul play. All he would need to do was close his laptop and the game would be over.
There was no choice: The team in the conference room frantically told the agents on the ground that they needed to arrest Cazes and do it now.
Pisal gave a cue via police radio to the two female agents in the gray Toyota Camry at the mouth of the cul-de-sac. Just the day before, the NSB colonel and his team had scrapped the postal delivery plan. The local post office had warned them that Cazes never signed for packages himself, that his wife often came to the door instead. So they’d had to think up a last-minute alternative. Their plan B now centered on that inconspicuous Toyota and Nueng, who sat in the driver’s seat, whispering Buddhist prayers to herself to slow her racing heartbeat.
A few seconds later, a loud clang rang out across the cul-de-sac, followed by the sound of metal grinding on concrete. The Camry had just plowed its rear fender into the fence of Cazes’ two-story home, bending the front gate, dragging it off its rails, and creating a clamor that ripped through the quiet of an otherwise peaceful morning on the outskirts of the Thai capital.
The security guard at the end of the cul-de-sac began shouting in exasperation at Nueng. Hadn’t he just told her to back straight out? Nueng and the other agent in her car stepped out of the vehicle, and Nueng stood on the street, scratching her head in a display of haplessness, apologizing and explaining to the security guard that she was still learning to drive. At that moment, a vertical shutter opened partially on a second-floor window on the front of the house—a detail, visible on the surveillance video feed, that sent a wave of excitement through the war room at NSB headquarters.
They had gotten the layout of the home on an earlier trip to the spec house, and they knew that this was the master bedroom. Had Cazes stepped away from his computer?
A moment later, Cazes’s wife, Sunisa Thapsuwan, came out from the house’s front door and poked her head around the bent gate. The petite Thai woman, wearing a long nightshirt over her pregnant belly, kindly reassured Nueng that it was fine, that she and her friend could leave. But Nueng, doggedly playing her part, shouted—as loudly as possible, trying to project so that Cazes could hear inside the house—that she needed to pay for the damage.
“I want to pay for it!” she pleaded. “I don’t want to pay for it in the next life!” Her hands shook as she channeled her adrenaline into the anxiety of a poor person who owes something to a rich person.