A Bellevue, Washington resident who assisted in the management of the Silk Road 2.0 website was arrested late last week on a complaint charging him with conspiracy to distribute heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine, announced Acting United States Attorney Annette L. Hayes. BRIAN RICHARD FARRELL, 26, who used the moniker “DoctorClu” on the Silk Road site came to the attention of Homeland Security Investigations agents last July. Silk Road 2.0 was a hidden website designed to enable its users to buy and sell illegal drugs and other unlawful goods and services anonymously and beyond the reach of law enforcement. The investigation of FARRELL resulted in a search warrant that was served earlier this month, and the arrest of FARRELL. He will appear in U.S. District Court in Seattle at 2:00 PM today.
“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,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “Those who attempt to hide their tracks using sophisticated computer networks will be found because of the determined work of law enforcement agencies such as Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the FBI.”
“The coordinated efforts of U.S. and international law enforcement agencies to disrupt anonymous black market websites continues to pay off with this arrest,” said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Seattle. “It is one of HSI’s top priorities to shutdown these hidden websites and bring their criminal operators and customers to justice."
According to the criminal complaint, Silk Road 2.0 went online in November 2013 following the government’s seizure of the first Silk Road website and the arrest of its alleged owner and operator, Ross William Ulbricht, a/k/a “Dread Pirate Roberts.” In November 2014, Blake Benthall, a/k/a “Defcon,” the operator of the Silk Road 2.0 site, was arrested in San Francisco. The complaint filed today charges that FARRELL was a key assistant to Benthall in running the site.
“Silk Road 2.0” was one of the most extensive, sophisticated, and widely used criminal marketplaces on the Internet. The website operated on the “Tor” network, a network of computers on the Internet, located around the world, designed to ‘anonymize’ or conceal the true IP addresses of computers that used the network and thereby the identities of the network’s users. Since its launch in November 2013, Silk Road 2.0 was used by thousands of drug dealers and other vendors to distribute hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services to buyers throughout the world, as well as to launder millions of dollars generated by these unlawful transactions. As of September 2014, Silk Road 2.0 was generating sales of at least approximately $8 million per month and had approximately 150,000 active users.
FARRELL was one of the small staff of online administrators and forum moderators who assisted Blake Benthall with the day-to-day operation of the website. Benthall and this small staff controlled and oversaw all aspects of Silk Road 2.0, including, among other things: the computer infrastructure and programming code underlying the website; the terms of service and commission rates imposed on vendors and customers of the website; and the massive profits generated from the operation of the illegal business. The complaint alleges that FARRELL, operating under the moniker “DoctorClu,” was involved in activities such as approving new staff and vendors for the website, and organizing a denial of service attack on a competitor. When the search warrant was served at FARRELL’s Bellevue home, agents seized $35,000 in cash as well as silver bullion and various types of drug paraphernalia.
The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case is being investigated by Seattle-Tacoma Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST Seattle), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Woods.
BEST Seattle is comprised of members from HSI; U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Office of Field Operations; the U.S. Secret Service; the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service; the USPIS; and the Seattle and Port of Seattle police department. BEST Seattle investigates smuggling and related crimes and combats criminal organizations seeking to exploit vulnerabilities at the Seattle and Tacoma seaports and adjacent waterways.