The darknet marketplace Silk Road 2.0 was closed down in November 2014, nearly a year after the site started its operations. Subsequently, Brian Farrel, the right hand man to Defcon, the operator of Silk Road 2.0, was arrested on charges of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine in January last year. Earlier, Brian Farrell has accepted a plea agreement in a district court in Washington’s Western District.
Farrell has also formally admitted to operating as “DoctorClu,” a Silk Road 2.0 staff member. As a Silk Road 2.0 staff member, he provided customer support as well as technical support, promoted other employees and accorded approval to vendors, according to a document filed in the court earlier this month.
Though he admitted that he is guilty on one count of conspiring to distribute cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, the reason for charging Farrell is not based on the fact he directly sold these products, but it is because of the position he held on Silk Road 2.0, the darknet marketplace that was used by drug dealers for selling their wares.
According to law, the penalties for such an offense may include five to forty years of imprisonment and up to $5,000,000 in fines. However, it has been agreed upon by the parties by way of the plea agreement that they will recommend eight years of imprisonment.
According to the plea agreement, initially Farrell purchased drugs through Silk Road 2.0 for personal use. The agreement also noted that he led a “denial-of-service-attack” on a competitor to Silk Road 2.0. Additionally, he acted as the spokesperson for Defcon, who took over control from Dread Pirate Roberts.
After Farrell’s arrest in Seattle last year, it emerged that he was one among the criminal suspects from dark web identified following the attack on Tor network launched by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).
Researchers from the SEI were successful in identifying the real IP addresses of some of the Tor hidden services, which included Silk Road 2.0, among others. Subsequently, the FBI subpoenaed SEI for the purpose of obtaining this information. As noted in Farrell’s search warrant, SEI was instrumental in identifying as many as 78 IP addresses that accessed Silk Road 2.0’s .onion address. One of these addresses led the law enforcement to Farrell.
In December last year in Ireland, two men, whose identities were revealed in SEI’s attack, were arrested and put in jail for drug offensives. Last month, the pedophile Gabriel Peterson-Siler, whose IP address also SEI obtained during their attack, pleaded guilty on one count, possession of child pornography. During the interview by FBI agents prior to his arrest, Farrell had reportedly told the agents they will not be able to find a bigger fish than him. In spite of Farrell’s statement, defense has been trying hard to obtain more access to discovery evidence, specifically the communications between the SEI and the Justice Department. However, more information about the Tor attack carried out by SEI is not likely to come out from the court as both Peterson-Siler and Brian Farrell have pleaded guilty. As of now, Brian Farrell is scheduled to be sentenced on June 3, 2016.