FBI agents arrested alleged “Silk Road 2.0” owner and operator Blake Benthall in San Francisco on Wednesday, the bureau’s New York field office announced Thursday.
The FBI is accusing Benthall, 26, of running the online “black-market bazaar” where anonymous users can trade illegal goods and services. The hidden marketplace operates on what’s called the “Deep Web,” accessible only through special software. The FBI shut down the original Silk Road about one year ago, and Silk Road 2.0 sprung up just five weeks later in November 2013.
The FBI’s complaint against Benthall alleges he took control of the marketplace in late December under the moniker “Defcon.” Benthall has owned and operated Silk Road ever since, the FBI alleges.
Benthall is charged on multiple counts including conspiring to commit narcotics trafficking. If convicted, that charge alone carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. The other charges are related to alleged computer hacking, trafficking in fraudulent IDs, and money laundering.
According to the FBI’s complaint, an undercover Homeland Security Investigations agent was able to infiltrate the Silk Road 2.0 support staff. The agent was therefore able to gain access to private sections of the website and communicate regularly with “Defcon.”