An unemployed university drop-out who was part of the notorious darknet market Silk Road’s upper hierarchy has been ordered to hand over more than £490,000 in Bitcoin.
Thomas White, 26, known online by the handle Cthulhu, took over the Silk Road darknet market after a US law enforcement operation captured its administrator Ross Ulbricht in 2013.
Despite the anonymising software he used to host and access the websites, he was identified by the NCA which said it tracked parcels of drugs he had ordered through the original Silk Road itself.
White in 2019 pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, money laundering, and making 464 Category A images of child abuse, the most severe, and was jailed for five years and four months.
He had dropped out of his accounting degree at Liverpool John Moores University after a single term to work on Silk Road, and within a month of its shutdown its successor site Silk Road 2.0.
Just like the original site, the second allowed people to use the anonymising browser software Tor to access a secret marketplace where they could “buy and sell class A and B drugs, computer hacking tools and other illegal goods” using Bitcoin.
“Although he had no legitimate income, White paid £10,700 up front to rent his plush apartment on Liverpool’s city water front,” according to the National Crime Agency.
Investigators are unsure how much money he made but around $96m (£73m) worth of goods were traded on Silk Road 2.0 and they say White took a commission of between and 1% and 5% on each sale from tens of thousands of users.
At a court hearing last week, White was assessed to have made more than £1,5m from his criminal activity as the NCA continued to investigate his finances even after he was jailed.
Tyrone Surgeon at the National Crime Agency, said: “Thomas White was a well-regarded member of the original Silk Road hierarchy. He used this to his advantage when the original site was closed down and profited significantly from his criminal activity.
“This case proves that crime doesn’t pay – not only has he spent the last two years in prison, he now has to hand over nearly £500,000.
“This has been a complex, international investigation and highlights that we will use every tool at our disposal to disrupt organised criminals from profiting from their crime,” added Mr Surgeon.