University drop-out faces jail over online drugs market and child abuse images
A university drop-out is facing jail after operating an online black market for illegal drugs while hoarding vile child abuse images.
Thomas White, 24, took over the running of the Silk Road website after it was shut down by the FBI in 2013.
White, who gave up after one term on his accounting degree at Liverpool John Moores University, was an administrator of the Silk Road and within a month of its shutdown launched Silk Road 2.0, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Despite being jobless, he rented a £1,700-a-month apartment in the Mann Island buildings on the waterfront in Liverpool city centre, raking in commission on each of the sales made by the tens of thousands of users of the site.
Silk Road 2.0, like the original, used technology to allow users to anonymously buy and sell drugs, computer hacking tools and other illicit items, using the digital currency bitcoin, authorities said.
When NCA officers raided his apartment they also found a laptop under his bed.
On it they later discovered were hundreds of the worst category child abuse images, according to NCA detectives Garry Tancock and Paul Chowles, who led the investigation into White.
Also uncovered was an online chat White had with an administrator of Silk Road 2.0, stating he would like to set up a website for paedophiles, "because there is money to be made from these people".
Among a vast amount of encrypted data found on White's seized computers was data hacked from Nasa, the FBI, users' data from Ashley Madison, a website billed as enabling extramarital affairs, a guide on how to hack Hillary Clinton's emails, the database of the US Fraternal Order of the Police, the equivalent of the UK's Police Federation, and customer details of UK broadband provider TalkTalk.
It is not believed White himself hacked the data.
White ran Silk Road 2.0 from November 2013 to March 2014 before he took a back seat but still involved himself with the running of the site by a US subordinate, where their computer servers were based.
The FBI raided the operation in November 2014 and White was arrested at his apartment and rearrested as the investigation progressed in early 2017 at the detached home of his parents in the city, where he was living with his mother and father, who is a self-employed businessman.
It is believed around 96 million dollars worth of goods was sold on the Silk Road 2.0 site with White making between and 1 and 5% commission on each sale.
He was believed to own 50 bitcoins, seized by police, with a current value of around £192,000.
White, who splashed out £35,000 on computers, spent his days computer gaming, staying up late, getting out of bed at lunchtime and sometimes would not leave his apartment for days.
Self-taught in computing, White was controlling, manipulative and forthright online, detectives said - but in the real world was the opposite.
Experts at the NCA are still trying to crack the encryption on some of the data held by White, whose online aliases were "St Exo" and "Dead Pilot Roberts".
Last month he pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, money laundering and making 464 category A indecent images of children.
He will be sentenced later on Friday at Liverpool Crown Court