Fusion

Silk Road 2.0, the Deep Web drug bazaar created after the arrest of the original Silk Road architect Ross Ulbricht, has been seized by the Department of Justice.

The FBI says it has arrested 26-year-old Blake Benthall, the man allegedly responsible for the creation of the copycat online marketplace for illegal merchandise. Benthall, who allegedly went by the online alias "Defcon" on his website, was nabbed in San Francisco on Wednesday and is being charged with conspiracy to commit narcotics trafficking, conspiracy to commit and aid and abet computer hacking, conspiracy to transfer fraudulent identification documents, and conspiracy to launder money.

FBI officials broke the news via Twitter.

In its complaint, the FBI said it had been tracking Silk Road 2.0 since the site's inception in October 2013, when an undercover agent from the Department of Homeland Security infiltrated an online forum on the Tor network. In those early forum conversations, it became clear that an individual going by the moniker "Defcon" would be the site's operator. The undercover agent was invited to be a moderator on Silk Road 2.0, and received 16 total payments that equaled to more than $32,000 in Bitcoin as payment for unspecified work.

Advertisement

Authorities identified Benthall as "Defcon" after locating a Silk Road 2.0 server overseas and confirming that it was controlled and managed by an individual who had used the email blake@benthall.net.

“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," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in statement. "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.”

A  banner announcing the seizure of the site has been placed on Silk Road 2.0's homepage. According to the FBI, the copycat site was generating as much as $8 million in monthly revenue and had more than 150,000 active users.

Advertisement

News of the seizure has been met with dread on multiple Dark Web forums. On Reddit's /r/SilkRoad, some have expressed fear that they too will be targeted by law enforcement agencies.

Fidel Martinez is an editor at Fusion.net. He's also a Texas native and a lifelong El Tri fan.

Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.