An unemployed university drop-out, jailed for running a dark web business selling illegal drugs, has been ordered to hand over more than £490,000 in bitcoin.
After he was jailed for over five years in 2019, officers at the National Crime Agency continued to investigate his finances.
At a recent confiscation hearing at Liverpool Crown Court, HHJ Teague QC ordered White to repay £493,550.00 from his bitcoin holdings. All electronic items used by White in commission of the offences were also forfeited.
White, who left his accounting degree at Liverpool John Moores University after a single term, was an administrator of Silk Road. But within a month of its shutdown by the FBI, he launched Silk Road 2.0.
Like the original site, it used technology to allow users to anonymously buy and sell class A and B drugs, computer hacking tools and other illegal goods, using the digital currency bitcoin.
When officers examined his electronic devices after his arrest, they also discovered a stash of horrific child sex abuse images.
He pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, money laundering and making 464 category A indecent images of children, and was jailed for five years and four months.
Tyrone Surgeon, Branch Commander 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.”
Twenty-four people have been arrested in the UK in one of the largest ever international operations targeting a criminal dark web marketplace.
Operational activity over the last six months – coordinated by the National Crime Agency in collaboration with UK policing partners – also resulted in the seizure of over £220,000 in suspected criminal cash and bitcoin, and more than 50 kilos of cocaine, MDMA, cannabis, methamphetamine and ketamine.
The operation, known as Dark HunTOR, began when German authorities arrested the marketplace’s alleged operator earlier this year and gained access to the wider criminal infrastructure. This enabled officers to share intelligence packages with law enforcement agencies around the world on the site’s vendors and buyers.
Countries including Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States were involved, with international coordination efforts led by Europol and Eurojust.
So far, the wider investigation has resulted in 150 alleged suspects being arrested, more than €26.7 million (USD 31 million) cash and virtual currency seized, 234kg of drugs and 45 firearms. The seized drugs include 152 kg of amphetamine, 27 kg of opioids and over 25,000 ecstasy pills.
Officers from the Dark Web Intelligence, Collection and Exploitation team (DICE) – a joint unit comprising experts from the NCA and policing – analysed the UK data and identified the criminal dealers assessed to present the highest risk.
Intelligence was then passed to Regional Dark Web Operations Teams – based within Regional Organised Crime Units and the Metropolitan Police Service – who arrested the individuals on suspicion of selling criminal goods on the dark web.
Damian Barrow, Senior NCA Manager in the Dark Web Intelligence Collection and Exploitation team, said:
“The individuals we have targeted who are supplying drugs via the dark web are ultimately preying on the vulnerable and destroying communities.
“This operation shows that those who try to use the dark web to anonymously commit crimes can be identified and will be tracked down.
“We would like to thank all partners involved in this operation, particularly Europol and Eurojust, and police forces and ROCUs across the UK.”
The National Cybercrime Programme lead for the Darkweb, Phil Donnelly, added:
“This successful operation shows the impact law enforcement is having on the criminal use of the dark web and encrypted platforms. The joint working of UK DICE, alongside our European partners, is allowing us to understand and identify offenders who are using technology to try and hide their criminal enterprises and bring them to justice.”
Europol’s Deputy Executive Director of Operations, Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, said: “The point of operations such as the one today is to put criminals operating on the dark web on notice: the law enforcement community has the means and global partnerships to unmask them and hold them accountable for their illegal activities, even in areas of the dark web.”