Silk Road 2.0's alleged 'DoctorClu' arrested on drug-related charges

Brian Richard Farrell was identified by Homeland Security in July and arrested Tuesday following an investigation into his alleged activities on the black market site Silk Road 2.0.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

The former home page of Silk Road 2.0

Another arrest has been made in connection with black market site Silk Road 2.0.

Brian Richard Farrell, a 26-year-old man from Seattle, was arrested Tuesday for allegedly acting as a "key administrator" for Silk Road 2.0, acting US Attorney Annette Hayes announced. Farrell, who allegedly used the handle "DoctorClu" on the black market site, is charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine.

The original Silk Road launched in February 2011. It took until early 2013 for the first alleged dealer on the site to be charged with a crime.

The arrest of Farrell spells more bad news for those who are operating in the underground Internet market. The original Silk Road was once the most prominent black market online, allowing users who used anonymizer service Tor to buy illegal drugs, illegal pornography and other unlawful goods and services. Tor allows Web users to bounce their IP addresses across the world to effectively conceal their identity. However, as recent arrests have shown, it may not be the panacea for anonymity that it once might have been.

After the original Silk Road was taken down in 2013 by the FBI, remaining administrators of the service opened Silk Road 2.0 in November 2013.

It wasn't long before Silk Road 2.0 took off on the black market. According to the FBI, the service had attracted 150,000 active users by September 2014 and was generating revenue of $8 million per month on commissions generated from transactions.

According to the FBI, Farrell was one of a "small staff of online administrators and forum moderators" who allegedly handled the day-to-day operation of the site. The FBI said that Farrell engaged in a range of activities for Silk Road 2.0, including approving vendors and customers and launching a denial-of-service attack on a competing service. He also allegedly raked in serious cash. Investigators reported that they found $35,000 in cash at his home during an investigation earlier this month, as well as silver bullion and "various types of drug paraphernalia."

Farrell's arrest comes just two months after the alleged leader of Silk Road 2.0, Blake Benthall, was arrested by federal authorities. Benthall, who allegedly went under the handle "Defcon," was also 26 years old and was charged with conspiring to commit narcotics trafficking and computer hacking, conspiring to traffic in fraudulent identification documents, and one count of money laundering conspiracy. According to the FBI, Farrell was a "key assistant" to Benthall.

The FBI did not say whether it has anyone else in its sights, but the investigation into Silk Road 2.0 is ongoing, indicating that further arrests are possible.

"The arrest of Mr. Farrell is proof that federal law enforcement continues its efforts to root out those who subvert the Internet to set up black markets for illegal goods," Acting U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes said in a statement Tuesday. "Those who attempt to hide their tracks using sophisticated computer networks will be found because of the determined work of law enforcement agencies such as Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the FBI."

The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.