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A Merseyside man currently serving a five-year and four-month prison sentence for his role in the administration of the Silk Road dark web marketplace has been ordered to hand over more than £490,000 in bitcoin.
Thomas White, aka Cthulhu, aged 26, was jailed in April 2019 for offences including drug trafficking, money laundering, and making over 450 indecent images of children.
The former Liverpool John Moores University student, who dropped out of college after completing a single term of an accountancy degree, played a key role in the takeover and relaunch of the Silk Road dark web marketplace in 2013 after the site’s first iteration was shut down by the FBI.
Following further investigations by the UK’s National Crime Agency, Liverpool Crown Court last week ordered White to repay a total of £493,550, out of earnings assessed at more than £1m. All the electronic devices he used in commissioning the offences have also been seized.
The hearing heard how, despite having no legitimate income, White was able to pay £10,700 upfront to rent a luxury riverside flat in Liverpool city centre.
“Thomas White was a well-regarded member of the original Silk Road hierarchy. He used this to his advantage when the original site was closed down and profited significantly from his criminal activity,” said NCA branch commander Tyrone Surgeon.
“This case proves that crime doesn’t pay – not only has he spent the past two years in prison, he now has to hand over nearly £500,000. This has been a complex, international investigation and highlights that we will use every tool at our disposal to disrupt organised criminals from profiting from their crime.”
Launched in 2011 and run by an American, Ross Ulbricht, who famously used the handle Dread Pirate Roberts, the underground Silk Road marketplace specialised in the sale of illegal drugs, but is thought to have also traded in other illicit goods, with payment made in bitcoin.
The Silk Road was one of the first dark web marketplaces, and certainly the first to gain notoriety beyond the dark web community. Supposedly, more than100,000 transactions took place via the website during its three-year lifetime.
After it was spun up again in November 2013, a month after Ulbricht’s arrest in a San Francisco public library, its administrators took the precaution of encrypting the site’s source code and distributing it, along with portions of the cryptographic keys needed to decrypt it, in 500 locations around the world.
However, the revived Silk Road had an even shorter lifespan than its predecessor, and was taken down in late 2014 by a joint US-EU law enforcement action, which resulted in the arrest of the new administrator, Blake Benthall – a former employee at Elon Musk’s SpaceX – as well as White. Subsequent attempts to bring the site back were made, but have largely foundered.
Read more about the UK’s National Crime Agency
- The NCA has revealed six men were arrested in the UK as part of an international investigation into a money laundering network which handled transactions for some of the world’s most prolific cyber criminal groups.
- A coordinated sting has ended the operations of the DoubleVPN service, the owners of which are accused of harbouring cyber criminal activity.
- The NCA has made three arrests in Belfast and London following an investigation into money laundering linked to a cyber heist on a bank in Malta.