A jobless university drop-out, who created the successor to the notorious dark web site Silk Road to sell drugs and child sex abuse images, has been jailed.
Thomas White took over Silk Road 2.0 after the FBI closed the original in 2013, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said.
The 24-year-old was jailed for 64 months at Liverpool Crown Court after admitting drug trafficking, money laundering and making 464 indecent images of children.
White, of The Bullrushes, Liverpool, faces a proceeds of crime investigation.
The NCA said White quit his accounting degree at Liverpool John Moores University after a single term and was an administrator of the Silk Road dark web site.
Like the original site, it used technology to allow users to anonymously buy and sell drugs and computer hacking tool, using crypto-currency.
He hoarded child sex abuse images of the most extreme nature so that he could sell them.
What was the Silk Road?
The Silk Road took its name from the historic trade routes spanning Europe, Asia and parts of Africa.
The website achieved notoriety through media reports and online chatter. But users could only access the site through Tor, a system that obfuscates who is visiting a website and what country they are in.
Tor was created by the US government to help provide activists with anonymity. It is now used for a variety of purposes – but is often used to mask illegal transactions.
Illegal drugs such as heroin could be bought on the Silk Road using the virtual currency Bitcoin, which is also more difficult to trace. The website also offered hacking equipment and stolen passports for sale.
White’s site specialised in supplying class A and B drugs as well as legal highs, when he ran it from November 2013 to March 2014.
Although he had no legitimate income, he paid £10,700 up front to rent a plush apartment on Liverpool’s waterfront.
Investigators are not sure how much money he made, although he traded $96m (£70m) worth of goods on Silk Road 2.0 and took between one and five percent commission on each sale.
The agency uncovered White’s online chat with an administrator of Silk Road 2.0 where he said he wanted to set up a paedophiles’ website “because there is money to be made from these people.”
A vast amount of encrypted material was discovered on his computers including data hacked from the FBI, Nasa, users’ details from the extra-marital affairs website Ashley Madison and customer details from UK broadband provider TalkTalk.
It is not believed White hacked the data himself.
He was rearrested in an NCA investigation in early 2017.
White, who spent his days staying up late gaming, was believed to own 50 bitcoins, which investigators seized, with a current value of around £192,000.