Alleged Silk Road 2.0 'key assistant' charged

Brian Richard Farrell is accused of being a key assistant to the alleged operator of Silk Road 2.0

A 26-year-old man has been charged with three counts of conspiracy for his alleged role in running Silk Road 2.0, which launched shortly after the demise of the first iteration of the infamous underground market.

Brian Richard Farrell, of Bellevue, Washington, is charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine in U.S. District Court in Seattle, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Agents seized US$35,000 in cash, silver bullion and drug paraphernalia from Farrell's residence when he was arrested last week, the DOJ said.

Farrell is accused of being a "key assistant" to Blake Benthall, whom authorities allege ran Silk Road 2.0. Benthall was arrested in November 2014 in San Francisco.

Silk Road 2.0 went live shortly after the original Silk Road was shut down in October 2013. It was virtually identical to its predecessor, offering an anonymous way for its users to buy drugs and other contraband. The website ran on the Tor network, an anonymity tool that makes it hard to identify IP addresses.

A trial is underway this week in New York for Ross William Ulbricht, who is accused of being "Dread Pirate Roberts," the mastermind behind the original Silk Road. Ulbricht's attorney has contended that while Ulbricht created the Silk Road, he left the site but was lured back by the real operators to serve as a fall guy.

As of September 2014, the Silk Road 2.0 generated sales of $8 million per month with about 150,000 active users, the DOJ said.

Prosecutors believe Farrell was part of a small group of administrators who managed the website's infrastructure and code. Using the nickname "DoctorClu," Farrell allegedly approved new staff and vendors and even organized a distributed denial-of-service attack on a competitor.

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