FBI together with the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York have announced that they have shut down the successor website to Silk Road, an underground online drug marketplace.
The Silk Road 2.0 marketplace is no longer operational with the website and its forums displaying only the a disclaimer that it had been taken down by Europol, Eurojust, the FBI, US Department of Justice and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. An FBI spokesperson confirmed that the domain had in fact been shut down.
Authorities arrested suspected operator Blake Benthall, known as Defcon online, in San-Francisco, his home city, on Wednesday.with conspiracy to commit drug trafficking, computer hacking, money laundering and other crimes. The 26-year-old Benthall had allegedly “controlled and overseen all aspects of Silk Road 2.0” since December 2013, one month after the site had launched. From December to February he also worked for private spaceflight company SpaceX.
The FBI says that he was found in part because he had supplied his own email address firstname.lastname@example.org for a Silk Road 2.0 server and had contacted the server’s service provider or accessed invoices without anonymizing software.
Besides, according to various records, he received a steady Bitcoin income, at one point putting down $70,000 in bitcoin as a down payment for a Tesla Model S. He was expected to make an initial court appearance in Manhattan Federal Court on Thursday to face charges for activities he allegedly perpetrated while running the website. The charges against Blake Benthall carry a maximum sentence of life in prison and a lawyer for him could not immediately be identified.
Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara called Silk Road 2.0 a “nearly identical criminal enterprise” to its predecessor, Silk Road, which was seized and shut down in October 2013 following the arrest of its alleged owner Ross William Ulbricht, who went by the online alias, Dread Pirate Roberts. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial in New York in January.
Bharara affirmed the position of law enforcement officials that those who operate such websites will be charged provided they allow crime to expand.
“Let’s be clear – this Silk Road, in whatever form, is the road to prison.
Those looking to follow in the footsteps of alleged cybercriminals should understand that we will return as many times as necessary to shut down noxious online criminal bazaars. We don’t get tired.” Preet Bharara said.
“The FBI worked with law enforcement partners here and abroad on this case and will continue to investigate and bring to prosecution those who seek to run similar black markets online,” added George Venizelos, FBI assistant director-in-charge.
The government’s investigation contained an undercover agent who was able to infiltrate the administrative staff of the website and communicate directly with Benthall, prosecutors said.
The FBI calls Blake Benthall ‘one of the most extensive, sophisticated, and widely used criminal marketplaces on the Internet today.” According to the FBI, Silk Road 2 had roughly 150,000 active users and had sales of $8 million per month as of September 2014.
Like its predecessor, Silk Road 2.0 was all about the drugs, but also offered a smidgen of other bad things.
The statement reads:
“Silk Road 2.0 had over 13,000 listings for controlled substances, including, among others, 1,783 listings for “Psychedelics,” 1,697 listings for “Ecstasy,” 1,707 listings for “Cannabis,” and 379 listings for “Opioids.” Besides illegal narcotics, other illicit goods and services were openly advertised for sale on Silk Road 2.0 as well, including fraudulent identification documents and computer-hacking tools and services.”