Officials Charge Man With Helping to Operate Silk Road Website

Federal agents arrested a man Tuesday who told them he was a top assistant to the operator of Silk Road 2.0, a widely used online criminal marketplace. The site allowed anonymous users to buy and sell illegal drugs, weapons and other illegal items.

Brian Richard Farrell, 26, who was known as “DoctorClu,” was one of a small staff of online administrators and forum moderators who helped run the website, according to ABC News. Farrell, who lived in Washington state, was arrested after a yearlong investigation. He was charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. The charge carries a mandatory minimum prison term of 10 years and a maximum punishment of life in prison.

Silk Road 2.0 emerged as a copycat site a month after the founder of the original Silk Road site was arrested in October 2013, the article notes.

“The arrest of Mr. Farrell is proof that federal law enforcement continues its efforts to root out those who subvert the Internet to set up black markets for illegal goods,” Acting U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes said in a news release.

The original Silk Road could only be accessed by using encryption software called Tor, which shields computers’ IP addresses, allowing people to make purchases anonymously. Silk Road facilitated more than $30 million in sales annually. It had been online since February 2011.

The website also sold other illegal items, such as forged documents and untaxed cigarettes. The site did not use credit cards, instead relying on “Bitcoins,” an untraceable digital currency that is available through online currency exchange services. The website told sellers to make shipments using vacuum-sealed bags so that drug-sniffing dogs would not detect the packages.

According to the Digital Citizens Alliance, Silk Road 2.0 was designed to look and operate much like the original website, but with better security.

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