A 26-year-old San Francisco man who allegedly ran a secret website that sold illicit materials online was arrested by FBI on Wednesday and appeared in court Thursday where he admitted his guilt, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Blake Benthall allegedly ran Silk Road 2.0, a dark Web or dark Internet site that enabled buyers and sellers to anonymize their illegal actions. The site allegedly had a monthly revenue of $8 million and more than 100,000 users.
The charges against Benthall include money laundering, computer hacking, identity fraud and narcotics sales.
Alleged Silk Road mastermind, Ross William Ulbricht, aka “Dread Pirate Roberts,” was arrested in October 2013 at a Glen Park library and has since faced charges in New York. The 29-year-old pleaded not guilty to four charges in a rewritten indictment returned this week.
Soon after Silk Road was taken down, Silk Road 2.0 was launched and run by an administrator known as Defcon.
Federal authorities say that Benthall was Defcon.
Silk Road 2.0 was similar to the original, according to federal authorities. All transactions were in Bitcoin, a virtual and unregulated currency that anonymizes buyers and sellers.
In October, the site had more than 13,000 listings for everything from Ecstasy and marijuana to psychedelics and opiates.
FBI agents, with help from other law enforcement entitles, infiltrated the operation and were able to interact directly with Benthall, which led to his arrest in San Francisco on Wednesday.
In federal court Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Haun argued against bail for Benthall. She also says he has confessed.
Benthall will next appear in New York federal court where his case will proceed.
Little information has been released about the 26-year-old. But there is much about Benthall on social media, even if little of it can be confirmed.
According to LinkedIn and Facebook, he hailed from Houston and listed his profession as “web construction worker.”
What may be his Facebook page also shows him aboard StartUpBus2014.
A few details of his bio have been confirmed.
Benthall was An employee of SpaceX, a private spacecraft endeavor, where he worked until February, according to the company. He also formerly worked for a RPX Corp., a San Francisco company that specialized in patent protection.
Romulo Mendivil, a Southern Californian IT consultant who has known Bentahll since they were teens, said he expected any news about his friend to be a story about his business success.
“I thought he hit it big,” Mendivil said.
Mendivil, who met Benthall over the Internet when they were teens playing multiplayer games like “Counter-Strike” and “Battlefield 2,” said they used to make fan websites for the games. He said he never met Benthall, whom he described as a smart and capable Web engineer, in person.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.