BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Five weeks ago, the FBI shut down what it calls the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet. Silk Road was a website selling illegal drugs and guns, but it may be finding new life.
Mary Bubala reports.
The new site has the same name and look, offering up an itemized list of illegal drugs. On Twitter Wednesday, the Silk Road’s purported new operator announced: “Silk Road is back up. Deja Vu anyone? #We Rise Again.”
“This could be a gigantic scam,” said Fran Berkman, a digital media expert.
Berkman says the person who’s running the new site claims to be registering 1,000 users per hour.
“To some of them, it’s more than just a website,” Berkman said. “It’s a cause. And they’re really invested in it, and they really want to see it succeed.”
Silk Road first launched in 2011 as an underground website where users could browse anonymously for drugs.
They paid in a hard-to-track cyber currency called Bitcoin. It was an Amazon.com with a black market bent, selling heroin and cocaine, as well as guns and fake ids.
After a two-year investigation, the FBI shut the site down last month and arrested its suspected operator, 29-year-old Ross Ulbricht, who’s also charged in Maryland for ordering the torture and murder of a witness in an undercover sting operation.
The new person running Silk Road claims to be taking the high road, banning child pornography and weapons, Tweeting: “Silk Road while under my watch will never harm a soul. If we did, then we are no better than the thugs on the street.”
If the new site is legit, customers are expected to start buying their drugs this weekend.
“He can’t be around forever, and when he’s gone, someone else, he’s confident, someone else will step up and fill the void,” Berkman said. “You can take down the man, but you can’t take down the idea.”
The FBI says it cannot comment about an ongoing investigation but has said that the original website processed $1.2 billion in transactions.
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