A year after the Silk Road 2 came online promising to revive the Dark Web drug trade following its predecessor’s seizure by the FBI, the sequel has suffered the same fate.
On Thursday international law enforcement agencies including the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and Europol took down the Silk Road 2 and arrested its alleged operator 26-year-old Blake Benthall in San Francisco. Benthall, who is accused of running the new Silk Road under the handle “Defcon,” has been charged with narcotics trafficking, as well as conspiracy charges related to money laundering, computer hacking, and trafficking in fraudulent identification documents. The criminal complaint against him alleges that the Silk Road 2 sold hundreds of kilograms of drugs of every description to hundreds of thousands of buyers around the world, with bitcoin-based sales of more than $8 million per month at the time of its seizure.
“Let’s be clear – this Silk Road, in whatever form, is the road to prison,” Manhattan U.S. attorney Preet Bharara wrote in a statement to the press. “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.”
The criminal complaint against Benthall outlines how the Silk Road 2′s staff was infiltrated by at least one undercover law enforcement agent even before the site went online in November of last year. In May of this year, the FBI somehow pinpointed the foreign server that ran the Silk Road 2 despite its use of the anonymity software Tor to protect its location, and obtained records from the server’s hosting provider identifying Benthall.
The complaint also traces Benthall’s proceeds from his alleged management of the Silk Road 2′s bustling sales. Law enforcement officials found that he used a bitcoin exchange to cash out $273,626 between Silk Road 2′s creation in November of last year and October of this year. About $70,000 of that money went towards a down payment on a $127,000 Tesla Model S.
Benthall’s arrest and the Silk Road 2 takedown follows news that Irish police arrested two drug trafficking suspects in Dublin and seized nearly $250,000 worth of drugs in an operation called “Onymous.” An FBI spokesperson confirmed that the arrests were connected, but declined to offer more information. An under
Benthall is accused of taking control of the Silk Road in December of last year, one month after it was created to replace the original Silk Road after the site’s October 2013 bust by the FBI. The Silk Road 2, like its predecessor, was initially run by a pseudonymous figure known as the Dread Pirate Roberts. But after the arrest of three alleged Silk Road 2 staffers who were also accused of working for the original Silk Road, the Dread Pirate Roberts disappeared, allegedly leaving Silk Road two in Benthall’s hands.