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Contraband
01/19/2015

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Seattle-area man arrested for key role in Silk Road 2.0

SEATTLE — A Bellevue man suspected of being a top-level administrator for the digital black market website Silk Road 2.0 will make his initial appearance in Seattle federal court Tuesday afternoon, following his arrest on drug conspiracy charges Friday by the Seattle-Tacoma Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST Seattle).

Brian Richard Farrell, 26, who was known on the Silk Road site as “DoctorClu,” came to the attention of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in July. In charging documents, HSI special agents describe Farrell as a key assistant to Blake Benthall, aka “Defcon,” the operator of Silk Road 2.0 who was arrested last November. The investigation led to the execution a search warrant at Farrell’s Bellevue home earlier this month and his arrest Friday. During the search, investigators seized $35,000 in cash, silver bullion and various types of drug paraphernalia. Farrell currently faces one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

Silk Road 2.0 was a hidden black market website designed to enable its users to buy and sell illegal drugs and other unlawful goods and services anonymously.

“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,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “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 coordinated efforts of U.S. and international law enforcement agencies to disrupt anonymous black market websites continues to pay off with this arrest,” said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of HSI Seattle. “It remains one of HSI’s top priorities to shutdown these hidden websites and bring the criminal operators and customers to justice."

In court documents it is alleged Farrell was one of the small staff of online administrators and forum moderators who assisted Benthall with the day-to-day operation of the underground website. Benthall and this small staff controlled and oversaw all aspects of Silk Road 2.0, including the computer infrastructure and programming code underlying the website; the terms of service and commission rates imposed on vendors and customers of the website; and the massive profits generated from the operation of the illegal business. While operating under the moniker “DoctorClu,” investigators believe Farrell was involved in activities such as approving new staff and vendors for the website, and organizing a denial of service attack on a competitor.

The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations.  A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by the HSI-led Seattle-Tacoma Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST Seattle), the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and the FBI.  The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington.

BEST Seattle is comprised of members from HSI; U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Office of Field Operations; the U.S. Secret Service; the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service; the USPIS; and the Seattle and Port of Seattle police department.  BEST Seattle investigates smuggling and related crimes and combats criminal organizations seeking to exploit vulnerabilities at the Seattle and Tacoma seaports and adjacent waterways.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 01/20/2015