Liverpool 'dropout' jailed for Silk Road dark web site
A jobless university dropout who created a site on the dark web to sell drugs and child sex abuse images has been jailed.
Thomas White launched Silk Road 2.0 less than a month after the FBI closed the original site in 2013.
In March, the 24-year-old admitted drug trafficking, money laundering and making 464 indecent images of children.
On Friday, he was sentenced, at Liverpool Crown Court, to 64 months in jail.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said White quit his accounting degree at Liverpool John Moores University after a single term.
He was an administrator of the Silk Road 2.0 dark web site, which let users buy and sell drugs and computer hacking tools with a degree of anonymity.
White's site specialised in supplying class A and B drugs as well as legal highs, when he ran it from November 2013 to March 2014.
The NCA said White also hoarded child sex abuse images of the most extreme nature so that he could sell them.
What was the Silk Road?
The Silk Road website took its name from the historic trade routes spanning Europe, Asia and parts of Africa.
It achieved notoriety through media reports and online chatter. But users could only access the site through Tor, a system that obfuscates who is visiting a website and from which country.
Tor was created by the US government to help provide activists with anonymity. It is now used for a variety of purposes – including masking illegal transactions.
Illegal drugs such as heroin could be bought on the Silk Road using the crypto-currency Bitcoin, which can be difficult to trace. The website also offered hacking equipment and stolen passports for sale.
Although he had no legitimate income, White paid £10,700 up front to rent a plush apartment on Liverpool's waterfront. He also spent £35,000 on computer equipment.
Investigators are not sure how much money he made from his website. However, $96m (£73m) worth of goods were traded on Silk Road 2.0 and White took between 1% and 5% commission on each sale.
In an online chat with an administrator of Silk Road 2.0, White said he wanted to set up a website for paedophiles "because there is money to be made from these people".
A vast amount of encrypted data was discovered on his computers including copies of information stolen from the FBI, Nasa, the extra-marital affairs website Ashley Madison and UK internet service provider TalkTalk.
White is not thought to have hacked the companies himself.
Investigators also seized from White about 50 bitcoins, which have a current value of about £192,000.
"We believe he profited significantly from his crimes, which will now be subject to a proceeds of crime investigation," said Ian Glover from the NCA.