The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged a cybercriminal known as “The Bull” with securities fraud and money laundering in connection with his scheme to solicit and sell stock trading tips and pre-release earnings and deal information regarding public companies.

Apostolos Trovias, known as the “The Bull” often used encrypted messaging services and the dark web for soliciting, exchanging, and selling insider stock info.

It Began in 2016

As per a criminal indictment, Trovias created an account on AlphaBay Market, which was the largest criminal marketplace for illicit goods on the internet, in 2016. The cybercriminal used the website to advertise and sell stock tips until the dark web marketplace was closed down in 2017.

According to BleepingComputer, the alleged fraud scheme comprised related efforts to help procure and monetize confidential non-public information, including:

  • the sale of misappropriated stock tips based on confidential customer trading information,
  • the sale of pre-release earnings reports and deal information misappropriated from publicly-traded companies,
  • the attempted creation of an online marketplace to connect, for a commission, individuals misappropriating Inside Information to individuals willing to pay for and trade on Inside Information.

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. declared in a DOJ press release:

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 Bull” Sold the Information as Part of Weekly or Monthly Subscriptions, or Individually.

The law enforcement authorities mentioned other illicit activities as well.

SEC stated that between December 2016 and this February, the Greek cybercriminal claimed to be “an actual office clerk working in a trading branch” and sold stock tips to buyers through monthly and weekly subscriptions as well as one-off sales.

In 2017, Trovias offered for sale and did sell, among other confidential information belonging to various securities issuers, for approximately $5,000 in Bitcoin, more than one pre-release earnings report misappropriated from a publicly traded company.

United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss highlighted that carrying out insider trading even using newer technologies still generates an undeniably traditional result— a criminal indictment.

Today’s charges demonstrate our Office’s continuing commitment to stopping those who pursue and use inside information to gain an illegal edge in the stock market.

As alleged, Apostolos Trovias attempted to hide his insider trading scheme behind anonymizing software, screennames, and bitcoin payments.


The man is charged with one count of securities fraud and one count of money laundering.

The securities fraud count carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison while the money laundering count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

But, without the court’s decision, this indictment and charges are “merely accusations,” and until proven guilty, the accused is considered innocent.

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