The crackdown on Internet drug market Silk Road continues

silk road

Arrested alleged Silk Road leader, Ross William Ulbricht.

Last week, the FBI arrested the alleged owner of deep Internet drug marketplace Silk Road and seized the website. While replacement sites to get drugs online have already popped up, sellers who used the Silk Road may end up in legal trouble along with their ringleader. 

In Washington State, federal authorities arrested the man they suspect to be “NOD,” one of the Silk Road’s most high-profile dealers. Steven Lloyd Sadler, 40, of Bellevue, Wash., is now in custody for allegedly peddling cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine in small batches to hundreds of global customers. The complaint (PDF) against Sadler and his roommate Jenna White details how federal agents tracked the defendants both on the ground and on the Silk Road website. 

Sadler isn’t the only person in legal trouble for suspected participation on the website. Four men in the U.K. were arrested by the newly formed National Crime Agency  for allegedly selling drugs on the Silk Road, and NCA director Keith Bristow said to expect more arrests in coming weeks. 

Will these arrests dissuade people who want to buy controlled or illegal substances online from doing so in the future? The quick movement to get replacement sites up and running suggests that this crackdown may do more to incentivize online peddlers to increase security rather than abandon the businesses altogether. And since authorities do not have the resources to go after every individual buyer, it’s unlikely casual buyers will face legal troubles from their time on the Silk Road, so they may not have a problem switching to another website, especially since the act of ordering drugs online is safer than going out onto the streets to look for it (plus, the quality of the product was often discussed by the Silk Road community, giving buyers a sense of confidence that the drugs they consumed would be pure — something especially important considering the recent rash of deaths stemming from a supposedly bad batch of MDMA sold on the traditional black market). And supporters of Silk Road are already trolling the FBI by flooding the agency’s Bitcoin address with pranks — not exactly a move that suggests a terrified community. 

So while continued arrests will land some Silk Road sellers in major legal trouble, the online drug market will likely continue and flourish. 

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