The FBI agent, thinking quickly, avoided eye contact with the Cazes and headed straight for the door. In the few seconds it took Cazes to cross the room, he seemed to be moving slowly, thoughts ran through Rabenn’s head: How did Cazes know who he was? Or that he was on his way? Or which hotel does he stay in Bangkok? Was there a leak? Have they been meeting more openly, blowing their looks? Had this criminal mastermind surpassed them?
In a moment, Rabenn expected Cazes to sit next to them at their table, with a serious look on his face, and say, as he thought, “Fuck you guys, I know you’re here, and you’re not going to get anything.”
Rabenn realized that he did not know how to respond. They are able to arrest Cazes on the spot, but lose hope of finding his laptop or any evidence of his gun control at AlphaBay. When they were at the height of their success, it seemed that their plan had failed.
“Oh, shit,” Rabenn finished quietly, with empty fear. “These things are finished.”
Then, when Cazes was about 5 feet from their table, he turned and sat down at the table next to them, facing two Israeli businessmen wearing suits and yarmulkes.
The Americans looked at each other in confusion. After a while, the FBI agent returned and sat down. He and Miller began talking quietly to the entire table to get everyone to leave.
As Rabenn regained consciousness, he allowed the thought to enter his mind that maybe it wasn’t all a fluke—that this was just the biggest coincidence of his life.
Trying to be normal, the prosecutors left and climbed the winding stairs to the hotel’s mezzanine floor, while the FBI agent and Miller sat listening to Cazes’ conversation at a nearby table. Down at the top, Rabenn and Hemesath shared a moment of rest. Messages from the FBI and DEA agents still at the table began to come in, reporting on Cazes’ meeting: He was talking to the Israelis about one of his real estate deals in the Caribbean.
After their panic subsided, they noticed that a group of Thai undercover police – including the leader of the group, Colonel Pisal Erb-Arb, in plain clothes – were standing around a table across from Cazes’ hotel and were watching him warily, though. secretly taking pictures of each other that caught Cazes on the ground. The founder of AlphaBay gave no indication that he had seen them.
As Rabenn and Hemesath enjoyed themselves in silence, an FBI agent joined them on the mezzanine floor and pulled out his phone. He started Googling, trying to calculate what had just happened. How many hotels were there in Bangkok, anyway? He quickly showed them the answer: There were thousands.
Happily, the two prosecutors were surprised by their surprise hit—but not for long. In two days, they knew that their team would once again meet Cazes face to face, this time with the best arrest they had ever attempted.
It will continue next week: The removal date has arrived. Operation Bayonet reaches its peak. And then the case takes a tragic twist.
This story is taken from a book Tracers in the Dark: The Global Hunt for the Crime Lords of Cryptocurrency, available now from Doubleday.
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Topic examples: Reymundo Perez III
Photo credit: Getty Images
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