Silk Road didn't just sell illicit drugs: one vendor called PlutoPete, real name Peter Ward, was also known for selling uncontrolled substances such as "legal highs" and drug paraphernalia and packaging.
But it turns out that Ward was running an illegal business too. On Monday, Ward, from North Devon, was sentenced to five years and two months for selling crack cocaine and methamphetamine, among other things, . A co-conspirator as sentenced to five years.
Following the shuttering of the original Silk Road marketplace in October 2013, officers from the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) searched Ward's home and seized computers. After forensically examining them, an NCA release states they found evidence of 5,235 sales over two years.
"The majority of sales related to legal items, but 54 transactions related to Class A and B drugs," the press release reads. "Ward had also been sending 'care packages' of drugs hidden on blotter paper into prisons."
Forensic analysis also led investigators to Richard Hiley, from the West Midlands. Hiley's computers and devices had messages from three Silk Road accounts, which handled 242 transactions of cocaine, cannabis, and methamphetamine.
According to the NCA statement, Ward and Hiley both pleaded guilty to 13 charges relating to the possession, importation, and supply of Class A and B drugs. Hiley also pleaded guilty to two counts of importing a prohibited weapon, after he shipped in five stun guns.
"Everything I sell is legal," Ward told Channel 4 News in an interview shortly after his arrest in October 2013. He also vowed to take legal action against the FBI for seizing his apparently legitimately-earned bitcoins. Ward previously told this reporter that he was in talks with the Silk Road's owner to offer an organised drug testing service as well, in an alleged harm reduction effort for the site's users.
The NCA stated that Ward kept receipts with customer details, a claim that he has previously denied. "As in Ward's case, dealers often don't take any care in handling personal details of customers. We are working with our law enforcement partners to further identify and pursue those illegally trading in drugs and firearms online," Ian Glover, NCA Branch Commander, said.
"Criminals and their customers like to think that dark web market places provide an anonymous haven. The reality is that law enforcement works together internationally to identify and pursue these people," he added.
Ward did not respond to a request for comment sent before his sentencing.