Creator Of Silk Road 2.0 Did Double The Business, Sentenced To Only Five Years In Prison

from the that's-like-three-lifetimes-in-the-US dept

In 2015, the man behind darknet drug marketplace Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, received two consecutive life sentences from a New York judge. Her rationale was that Ulbricht was no different than a "dangerous Bronx drug dealer." No leniency was given. The government, which participated in its own share of misconduct during the investigation, argued Ulbricht should be personally financially-responsible for every drug transaction on the Silk Road: a total of $184 million.

The government got its win -- all of it. But it was only temporary. Silk Road 2.0 swiftly took the original's place, run by another young man who knew he was going to be pursued by law enforcement across the world as soon as he fired it up. Long before it was shut down, Silk Road 2.0 was double the size of the original Silk Road, proving once again that sellers and buyers of illicit substances will find each other, no matter how many roadblocks governments erect.

The operator of this marketplace was arrested in San Francisco -- just like Albricht was. But that's where their stories drastically diverge. For one, the person arrested in San Francisco was not the founder of Silk Road 2.0. That title belonged to Dread Pirate Roberts 2 (DPR2). That person, Thomas White, was arrested by the UK's National Crime Agency.

Unlike Ulbricht's prosecution -- which played out in public thanks to our justice system's presumption of openness -- White's prosecution occurred in secret, shielded from the public eye by UK law. White was arrested in 2014, but his sentence has only now been handed down. Ulbricht got two life sentences and $184 million in fees from a US court for running the Silk Road. The creator of Silk Road 2.0 -- doing double the business of Silk Road 1.0 at its peak -- is looking to be out of prison years before his inspiration sees freedom.

[A] court in Liverpool, England, sentenced Thomas White, a technologist and privacy activist, for crimes committed in part while running Silk Road 2 under the DPR2 persona, among other crimes committed under another persona. White pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, money laundering, as well as making indecent images of children, and was sentenced to a total of 5 years and 4 months in prison.

There's your compare-and-contrast. In the US, drug crimes are the worst crimes. In the UK, crimes are crimes and the rehabilitation prisons can't provide are recognized and people are sentenced accordingly. I'm sure the DOJ is marveling at this miscarriage of justice and wondering why they bothered pitching in with an investigation that only resulted in a 5-year prison sentence.

And where Ulbricht spent his time locked up pretrial, thanks to the government getting his bail denied because of two murder-for-hire charges it later dropped, Thomas White spent his time out in the open with access to a computer. As Joseph Cox points out, White was pretty well-known in the world of security research, thanks to contributions he made while awaiting trial and sentencing.

On Twitter he mused about security and privacy topics, and has appeared under his own name in articles in Motherboard, Forbes, and more as an expert on Tor and other subjects. He previously ran a website archiving large data breaches that anyone could download, including the MySpace breach, data from hacked affairs website Ashley Madison, and customer information from a Muslim-focused dating site called ‘Muslim Match.’

Our government argues lengthy sentences for drug cases are needed to deter others from drug dealing. Seeing how quickly the new Silk Road replaced Ulbricht's version makes it clear lengthy sentences aren't deterring anything. I'm not even sure the DOJ believes its own bullshit at this point. Prison is punishment and our system is set up to provide as much punishment as possible in every case. Other places in the world recognize the limited societal value of taking decades away from people for selling products people want to buy.

Filed Under: dread pirate roberts 2, sentencing, silk road, silk road 2.0, thomas white, uk, us


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 4:16am

    "The operator of this marketplace was arrested in San Francisco -- just like Albricht was. But that's where their stories drastically diverge. For one, the person arrested in San Francisco was not the founder of Silk Road 2.0."
    Who was arrested in San Francisco?
    When were they arrested in San Francisco?

    San Francisco. Is there no more mention of this person just to make sure there is no mr/mis-gendering?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 4:37am

    Re:

    Ha, "mr/mis-gendering", that's cute. Transphobic as hell, but cute. In any case, the dude's name was Blake Benthall. Try using a search engine to answer obvious questions next time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    JoeCool (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 5:06am

    Re: Re:

    Like many politicians, many normal people also have no idea how to effectively use search engines. I commonly get asked by friends to find info that is found in twenty seconds via google when I know they just spent twenty minutes trying to find the same info. Knowing how to compose a proper search term string is one of the main issues people have, and being able to quickly parse the results from pages that don't relate to what you're looking for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 5:44am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I used "Silk Road 2.0 San Francisco". Not that hard a string to figure out, I think.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 5:47am

    'Our government argues lengthy sentences for drug cases are needed to deter others from drug dealing'

    absolute load of bollocks! in the USA, there is nothing more important to prosecutors than not just getting the win verdict but in getting the so-called perp the maximum sentence possible! it's almost as if there is a competition going on where the winner is the lawyer that gets the longest prison sentence for the person committing the same or very similar crime! talk about an ego trip! that is far more important than justice or the law and judges are now following on, giving the prosecutors whatever ridiculous sentence demanded! there can be no worse crime than murder and i appreciate that selling drugs in the amounts they are is tantamount to murder. selling the means is a bit different to performing the act of pulling the trigger or injecting the drug, so to get remanded like this is surely way OTT! then to have another person doing the same thing but on an even greater scale then punished in what amounts to a far, far lesser degree seems to just rub salt. the deterrent isn't the thing, the winning of a ridiculous sentence here is!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 6:16am

    Drugs weren't the only things for sale on the silk road, and not the only thing its founder was charged with.

    Very odd article.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 6:21am

    White pleaded guilty to [...] making indecent images of children [...]

    Here in the UK, this is quite nebulous as drawings can classify as "children," so I'm taking that bit - for now - with a grain of salt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 6:28am

    "Prison is punishment and our system is set up to provide as much punishment as possible in every case."

    Let's not forget the investments they have in the prison industry and how those investments must be continuously fed new customers.

    Law writing, enforcement and maintenance should not be a for profit business.

    The punishment thing is just another side of the sick and perverted human characteristics that are attracted to such activity. Perhaps a pych exam is in order for applicants.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    JoeCool (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 6:50am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I would agree, but that wouldn't occur to some folk. They might try just "silk road", then move on to "silk road usa", then maybe "silk road not white" and other strings we would consider silly when looking for this info, better truly never occurs to them. And don't forget when people see search terms highlighted in the article (if/when they find it), they think the emphasis is in the article. Many folks simply don't grok google. :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    TRX, 15 Apr 2019 @ 6:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Far too long of a string for most people to peck into their phone's pathetic web browser app.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 7:07am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Or "silk road murder for hire"

    Or "silk road guns"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 7:08am

    Re: Re:

    Disgust is not phobia.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 7:37am

    The UK could not give every drug dealer 10-20 year sentences ,
    if they did so there would be no space left to put people convicted of serious violent crimes .
    America has a large private prison industry which needs new customers
    ie convicts .
    Also uk judges know potential drug dealers will not be put off by the chance of being sent to prison .As long as there is demand and there is a large profit to be made there will always be drug dealers in every society .
    At least some states in the us are making the sale of cannabis to adults legal and taxing it, rather than spending more tax payer money building prisons .
    Some public trials in the us are almost a PR exercise designed to show
    we will give certain people the maximum sentence for certain crimes .
    Judges and prosecuters in the uk do not run for political office
    so trails are designed to sentence people for the crime they committed
    not as some kind of PR exercise .
    So i,d say the justice system in the uk is more balanced and fair
    than the system in the USA which seems to be more influenced by
    political considerations .

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 7:38am

    Sentencing Disparity

    So, Blake Benthall was held for 13 days and not charged. So how is that not as noteworthy as that White was sentenced to 5 years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 7:48am

    Yes, "cybersecurity" experts tend to be criminals who, at least for now, have been preying on corporate ignorance and malfeasance to find work.

    Try the #infosec hashtag on Twitter, start observing and archiving, and your eyes will open very quickly. These people think they're above the law. If you really want to see what they're like, watch what happens when someone offends them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 7:49am

    Our government argues lengthy sentences for drug cases are needed to deter others from drug dealing. Seeing how quickly the new Silk Road replaced Ulbricht's version makes it clear lengthy sentences aren't deterring anything.

    There's nothing "clear" at all about that, given that DPR2 was not operating withing US jurisdiction...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 7:51am

    For profit prisons = seeing public as potential revenue streams

    So the profit based privatized (corporate owned) prisons in the US result in skewed priorities.

    Prosecutors have to continually feed the system they created if they want to advance (are we sure there aren't 'paid per convict year' bonuses going out under the table to some of the top prosecutors?). I'm just saying, we don't "KNOW" that the prisons aren't paying to acquire new revenue sources, now do we? I heard it was a thing...

    Or at least it's a hypothetical about why prosecutors overreach (aside from fragile ego's that can't handle loss) that could be happening somewhere. Don't believe me, prove me wrong? Show that this has never happened (a prison corporation paying bonuses or providing complimentary trips or seminars...)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 8:34am

    Re: Re:

    How did you get from mr/mis to
    "Transphobic as hell..."
    Are you a tranny expert? Psychologist?
    "Transphobia is a range of negative attitudes, feelings or actions toward transgender or transsexual people, or toward transsexuality"

    That, is funny. How many billions of quantum leaps did it take to get from point A to point B? It certainly wasn't a quantum leap.
    I was just trying to be politically correct. I didn't want to make a monster mr/mis-take.

    I thought transgender people had their own unique identifiers that weren't Mr/Mrs/Miss or Ms. Do you have a tranny complex? Would you feel better if I added Zis/Zat and ze ozer zing?

    Perhaps you have a list of entitlements to be used to address our 57 varieties of gender? (Last I heard, late last year, there were 56 varieties. I thought adding one would be safe, but, according to google, there are now 63 varieties. Is this right Mr. google fu? Sorry, Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms/Zis/Zat or ze ozer zing google fu)

    Is this gender volume unique to humans, mammals, or does it apply to fish and all life on earth as well? Farmers, hunters, conservation officers, American Kennel Club and transphobics, just to mention a few, all need to know.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 8:45am

    Re:

    In the US, drug crimes are the worst crimes.

    This is actually not true; Child Pornography crimes are considered much worse than drug crimes.

    But as you say, the UK interpretation of "children" is a bit more loose, so the sentencing may be appropriate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 8:50am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "I think" if it was pertinent to the story, it should be in the story, if it isn't pertinent to the story, why mention it?

    What about the arrest in Dallas? Google it

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    harbingerofdoom (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 9:08am

    Re: Re:

    pointing out the factual issue that people who belong to the alphabetsoup group loose their damn minds whenever people not of their group say... well... anything really, is not a phobic response.

    its no more phobic than pointing out other well known facts like, the sky is blue, the earth is round and water is wet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 9:42am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Greenaphobe! Flatphobic! Dryphobic!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. icon
    Thad (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 10:04am

    Re: Re: Re:

    How did you get from mr/mis to

    "Transphobic as hell..."

    The same way we get from the rest of the stupid shit you just said to "transphobic as hell."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 11:22am

    "In the US, drug crimes are the worst crimes."

    If you read the sentencing document and the judges comments on DPR's actions you see that he didn't get that sentence because 'in the US, drug crimes are the worst crimes', he got is because in the US, defiance against the state is the worst crime.

    The judge was pretty clear she hammered him not because of the drugs but because his system undercut the power of the US government by providing a place where people could do things deemed illegal by a politically connected minority with near impunity.

    He was hammered because he offered a way to live (at least partially) outside that system of central control. A system that is that judges bread and butter.

    Don't fuck with a powerful person's bread and butter.

    https://youtu.be/T6gIaeC5kQk?t=31

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 11:24am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Unless they are doing it to be a troll and trying and failing to make a sarcastic point... oh dear.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Agammamon, 15 Apr 2019 @ 11:25am

    "In the UK, crimes are crimes"

    Tell that to Count Dankula or Tommy Robinson.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 11:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Another brilliant explanation. How could anyone possibly be confused?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:19pm

    Re:

    "Yes, "cybersecurity" experts tend to be criminals who, at least for now, have been preying on corporate ignorance and malfeasance to find work."

    Are you being facetious?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:21pm

    Re: For profit prisons = seeing public as potential revenue stre

    Private prisons provide a steady stream of slave labor.
    I think this is the right wing plan for competing with the Chinese.
    It is laughable I know ... but it is in line with some of their other silly ideas.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 1:06pm

    Re:

    Prosecution of drug crimes with ridiculously large minimum sentences is the Bush league for future wannabe politicians. At 30k a year now to keep them locked up in the private prison
    industry, why not bust them and send them to college. Money better spent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Eh, I didn't see it as anything other than current take on what used to be s/he or (s)he when unsure of the gender of a person.

    And I have to admit, I did find the "zis and zat" mildly amusing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Re:

    $30,000 per prisoner?

    We need more private prisons. I live in prison country, and the medium security ones claim $50-60K/y per, the Max and Supermax ones three to five times that much.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 3:44pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Well hell that's Harvard and a tutor

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    Roy Rogers, 16 Apr 2019 @ 1:05am

    Re:

    Apparently I was mr/mis-understood. My apologies to all the confused people.

    To those snowflakes who were triggered, I could lower myself to your level and tell you to go die in a fire but, global warming is real, it would be redundant to do so.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. identicon
    Roy Rogers, 16 Apr 2019 @ 1:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Do you know the difference between a pedigree and a pedicure?

    Do you know anything about wildlife management?

    I distinctly remember being told that being LGB happens in nature and wasn't just a human thing. Isn't it logical to assume that LGBT happens naturally as well? I just can't recall if there were any examples outside of the mammal kingdom.

    If that is stupid shit, you'll have to blame the LGB and sometimes T community for spreading that stupid shit.

    CHK-CHK, Come on Trigger, lets go home

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. identicon
    Annonymouse, 16 Apr 2019 @ 8:19am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Billions of quantum leaps.

    Quantum .. smallest indivisible amount
    Literally next to nothing

    Rates right up there with common sense
    Which is NOT the same thing as good sense

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37. identicon
    Annonymouse, 16 Apr 2019 @ 8:22am

    Re: Re:

    Also the burning of fecal matter is at best frowned upon and at worst highly illegal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2019 @ 2:43pm

    Re: U.S. jurisdiction

    You're right... DPR2 was not operating within U.S. jurisdiction. Neither was Gary Davis, the original DPR's 2IC. Despite that, he found himself extradited from Ireland and is now jailed in the U.S., awaiting sentencing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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