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Alleged Operator of Silk Road Cybercrime Website Arrested

The average internet user has probably never heard of Silk Road 2.0. This website, however, has been used to facilitate the easy sale of illegal drugs, fraudulent identification documents, as well as tools for computer hacking, across not only the U.S., but the entire world.

It was here in the U.S., though, where the alleged operator of Silk Road 2.0 was arrested on charges of narcotics trafficking. Twenty-six-year-old Blake Benthall seemed like any other worker in Silicon Valley. However, it is believed that Benthall oversaw the operation of Silk Road 2.0, which has been estimated to have generated over $8 million per month in illegal sales and purchases made by thousands of drug dealers worldwide who utilized the website to distribute hundreds of kilos of illicit drugs.

The Path to Silk Road 2.0

The original Silk Road website was also used for illegal activities, but in 2013, a newer version of the website emerged just days after the original Silk Road was shut down and its alleged owner was arrested. Since then, Silk Road 2.0 has operated in its place, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) believes that it is virtually identical to its predecessor. When the new Silk Road was launched, it was first controlled by a co-conspirator known simply as ‘Dread Pirate Roberts,’ which is the same assumed name under which Benthall allegedly operated the site. At the end of 2013, it is believed Benthall overtook administration responsibilities of the Silk Road 2.0 and continued to operate and own the website until his arrest in November. Now Benthall is being charged with one count of conspiracy to commit narcotics trafficking, in addition to one count of conspiracy to traffic in fraudulent identity documents and one count of conspiracy to commit computer hacking.

The DOJ investigation revealed a website with over 150,000 users, full of listings for participation in and the solicitation of illegal goods and product purchases. More specifically, the DOJ alleges that most product listings on the Silk Road were for the sale of illegal drugs and that all payments were made through the use of Bitcoin in order to preserve the anonymity of users, while also assisting in the ability to evade law enforcement pursuit and inquiries. The DOJ has alleged that as of October 17, 2014, the website had listings for the sale of over 13,000 controlled substances, including 1,783 psychedelic listings, 1,707 cannabis listings, 1,697 listings for ecstasy and 379 opioid listings.

The DOJ’s bust represents a victory in its cybercrime and drug trafficking efforts. However, the DOJ and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which brought the formal charges against Benthall, understand that the risk still remains that a copycat site could once again emerge to replace the now defunct Silk Road 2.0. In consideration of this risk, the Southern District U.S. Attorney has stated:

“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.”
Drug charges should never be taken lightly, and can result in serious consequences upon conviction. If you need a criminal defense attorney that you can trust, contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. in South Florida today.

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