The Feds have arrested Blake Benthall- a 26 year old San Francisco man behind the illegal online drug bazaar, Silk Road 2.0 in the largest ‘dark web’ take down in history. The site popularly known for drugs and other illegal substances has been raking more than $8 million in monthly sales and attracting over 150000 vendors and customers.
The joint European and US operation in 17 countries nabbed six other Britons and impounded more than 400 website on the “dark web” – not accessible through normal search engines and standard web address.
“Since the original Silk Road was taken down, we have been working with partners in the US and Europe to locate technical infrastructure key to the dark web and to investigate individuals suspected of significant involvement in illegal online market places,” said Roy McComb, the National Crime Agency’s deputy director. “Those arrested by the NCA in this phase of the operation are suspected of setting up Silk Road 2.0, or of being significant vendors of illegal drugs.”
The arrest of Benthall, popularly known as Defcon, could be the end of the Road for Silk Road 2.0 which resurrected weeks after the original “Silk Road” was taken down by the FBI and International partners Last Year. The founder of original Silk Road, 29-year-old Ross William Ulbricht alias Dread Pirate Roberts, is currently standing trial in US in connection with the illegal market place.
“As alleged, Blake Benthall attempted to resurrect Silk Road, a secret website that law enforcement seized last year, by running Silk Road 2.0, a nearly identical criminal enterprise,” Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
According to the FBI, Benthall took control of Silk Road 2.0 in December 2013, weeks after administrators of the original sites were arrested. “It is with great joy that I announce the next chapter of our journey,” wrote Benthall, signaling the return of Silk Road 2.0. “Silk Road has risen from the ashes, and is now ready and waiting for you all to return home.”
Like his former boss, Benthall faces multiple charges of narcotics trafficking, a slew of computer hacking frauds, forging identification documents and money laundering. He could be in for Life imprisonment if found guilty by the federal courts.
“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,” read Preet Bharara statement.
Silk Road 2.0 operates almost a similar business model with standard online stores such as Amazon or eBay allowing customers to list their illegal substances charging a commission of between 5-8% per transaction. By 17th October 2014, the site had over 13,000 listing of controlled substances including, 1,697 Ecstasy listings,’ 1,707 Cannabis listings, 379 listings for Opioids, and host of fake immigration documents, revealed court documents.
Unlike Amazon and other online stores, Silk Road 2.0 customers and Vendors utilizes The Onion Router (TOR) anonymous browsing network to conceal their IP addresses and used Bitcoin in their transactions making it hard for law enforcers to trace their transactions.
Others “significant” arrests in the largest dark web take down ever include, a 20-year-old man from Liverpool, a 19-year-old man from Lincolnshire, a 30-year-old man from Cleethorpes, a 29-year-old man from Wales and a man and woman, both 58, also from Wales.
Dark web sites such, Hydra, Outlaw Market, Cloud Nine, Alpaca and BlueSky, were impounded in the web scotching operation that dismantled the web infrastructure used by criminals. “This time we have also hit services on the dark net … where, for a long time, criminals have considered themselves beyond reach. We can now show that they are neither invisible nor untouchable.” said Troels Oerting the director of Europol’s cybercrime unit.
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