Started in 2011, the online marketplace Silkroad soon became the go-to place for all manner of illegal products. The users of Silkroad enjoyed the anonymity that they had even as they browsed. The Tor hidden services made it quite difficult for the Feds to pin down people in criminal charges. The original Silkroad was shut down temporarily before being opened up for business again as Silkroad 2.0.
Studies show that at least $30 million worth of business was being transacted on Silkroad by 2013. The business transactions are taking place courtesy of over 3800 vendors who are active site users. While the Feds have tried to hold these vendors, they are not having much luck on that front.
The Feds currently have the alleged mastermind of Silkroad Ross Ulbricht. Ross is expected to answer to charges of money laundering, conspiracy to traffic narcotics and computer hacking. He is also expected to answer to charges of conspiracy to planning a murder. For now, no one knows whether the prosecution will manage to get a conviction.
The FBI had previously arrested two previous Silkroad vendors Jacob Theodore George IV and Steven Lloyd Sadler. Jacob pleaded guilty to charges of selling bath salts and heroin while Sadler was arrested on heroin and cocaine charges. These two did cooperate with the government in the case against Ross. While their testimony may end up crucifying Ross, the burden of making that conviction rests mostly on the shoulders of the prosecution.
The fact of the matter is that three or four convictions compared to the over 3800 vendors on Silkroad is really a very small percentage. The volume of trade being done by these vendors is large. The FBI is not doing very well when it comes to arrests. The prosecution team on the other hand, is faring just as badly. As long as the Tor hidden services remain, the situation is not expected to improve. In fact, the success of the government in holding vendors accountable may go down because of Bitcoin and other digital currencies.