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A man accused of running Silk Road 2.0, a revived Internet black market, was arrested by the FBI on Wednesday in San Francisco.
Blake Benthall, 26, also known as "Defcon," is accused of attempting to resurrect the infamous Silk Road, a somewhat-secret website which allowed visitors to purchase anything from illicit drugs to murder-for-hire contracts. According to Ars Technica, the FBI reports that Benthall is facing charges of narcotics trafficking, computer hacking, money laundering, and fraudulent document trafficking, all of which carry weighty prison sentences.
What was Benthall doing with Silk Road 2.0, and what is he facing in federal prosecution?
After Silk Road 1.0 Went Down...
The original Silk Road (the website, not the historical trading route) was run by Ross Ulbricht, a San Francisco man who went by his online alias "Dread Pirate Roberts" or "DPR." Ulbricht was arrested in San Francisco last year on drug conspiracy, money laundering, and murder charges, and his online bazaar of black market sales was shut down. The Justice Department seized $3.6 million in bitcoin (a virtual currency) when it closed the doors on Silk Road, but it certainly didn't shut off the demand.
About a month after Ulbricht's arrest and Silk Road's demise, Silk Road 2.0 appeared. It seemed like a brazen (and incredibly stupid) move with law enforcement already keen to its predecessor, but almost a year went by without an arrest. That is until Thursday, when the FBI announced in a press release that Benthall had been arrested in connection with Silk Road 2.0, which had also been shuttered.
In addition, the feds unsealed their criminal complaint against Benthall in Manhattan federal court, detailing the FBI's investigation and the allegations against him.
Facing Serious Felony Charges
Much like his predecessor Ulbricht, Benthall faces numerous conspiracy charges related to drug trafficking and money laundering, in addition to trafficking in fraudulent documents and computer hacking. The narcotics trafficking charge actually carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, so it isn't looking likely that Benthall will be getting a slap on the wrist.
Just in case you start feeling bad for him, know that in February, Ars Technica interviewed a "DPR 2.0" who named "Defcon" as the second-in-command of Silk Road 2.0 and mocked the FBI for their inability to shut down the black market site.
Well DPR 2.0, Silk Road 2.0 is down and Defcon is preparing for federal prosecution. Still so smug?