The FBI arrested Blake Benthall, the man they believe has been operating “Silk Road 2.0,” a deep-Web narcotics bazaar, authorities announced Thursday.
Benthall was arrested by agents in San Francisco Wednesday, but news of his arrest was announced by the FBI's New York office. Benthall, who allegedly operated under the online alias "Defcon," has been charged in the Southern District of New York. In addition to Benthall's arrest, the site has been seized by U.S. authorities and effectively shut down.
According to the criminal complaint unsealed in a Manhattan Federal Court Thursday, authorities say: “Since its launch in November 2013, Silk Road 2.0 has been used by thousands of drug dealers and other unlawful vendors to distribute hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services to buyers throughout the world, as well as to launder millions of dollars generated by these unlawful transactions.”
The complaint alleges that Benthall launched Silk Road 2.0 just five weeks after its predecessor, Silk Road, was shut down by the FBI in October 2013. Silk Road's alleged operator, Ross William Ulbricht, known by the online alias "Dread Pirate Roberts," is due to face trial in January 2015.
Authorities also revealed that an undercover agent from the Homeland Security Investigations division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, managed to infiltrate the Silk Road 2.0's support staff. The complaint says that the agent was given access to restricted areas of the site, and by doing so, was able to directly observe Benthall's operation of the site. Silk Road 2.o was subsequently shut down.
The complaint reveals that the undercover agent managed to take screenshots of some of the illegal products for sale on the site. These included 100 grams of “Afghan Heroin Brown Powder,” five grams of “highest purity cocaine -- direct from Colombia” as well as a fake Danish passport.
Benthall has been charged with multiple crimes, including conspiring to commit narcotics trafficking, which on its own carries a maximum sentence of up to life in prison and a minimum sentence of 10 years, according to NBC News. The other charges Benthall faces include computer hacking, money laundering and offenses for trafficking in false identification documents.
In addition to his alleged involvement in Silk Road 2.0, Benthall also worked briefly for SpaceX, the commercial spacecraft company currently under contract with NASA, according to a report from Business Insider.
Bitcoin has been enormously popular with Darknet and illegal online businesses, and the original Silk Road had used the online currency since its introduction. When Silk Road was shut down, the price of bitcoin fell from $140 to $129 in just one day.
"Let’s be clear -- this Silk Road, in whatever form, is the road to prison," U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said in a statement. "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.”