Feds arrest alleged leader of Silk Road 2.0

The Justice Department has arrested the alleged leader of an online black market that specialized in selling drugs.

Blake Benthall, 26, who went by “Defcon” and ran the Silk Road 2.0 website, was arrested in San Francisco on Wednesday and will appear in court on Thursday, authorities say.

ADVERTISEMENT

Silk Road 2.0 was launched about one year ago, shortly after federal agents shut down its predecessor. It has enabled more than 100,000 people to buy and sell illegal drugs anonymously over the Internet, the Justice Department claimed.

“Let’s be clear — this Silk Road, in whatever form, is the road to prison,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement announcing the arrest. “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.”  

Like the previous incarnation of the site, Silk Road 2.0 is only accessible to people using the anonymous Tor software, and it sells drugs, fake identification cards and other illicit goods. Merchants exclusively use the largely anonymous virtual currency Bitcoin, which has contributed to persistent concerns that the money is an invitation to money laundering.

As of September, the site was generating at least $8 million in sales per month, the Justice Department claimed.

The original Silk Road site was shuttered by federal agents last October. Weeks later, the replacement site was launched to fill the void.

Benthall was charged with counts of conspiring to traffic drugs, fake IDs, commit money laundering and hack into computers. The maximum penalties could land him in prison for decades.