Top Online Drug Marketplace Vanishes in Apparent Scam

By May Wilkerson 03/19/15

Some believe that site administrators took off with millions in drug money.

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The Internet’s top drug marketplace, Evolution, has suddenly vanished in what seems to be a scam, reports Andy Greenberg in Wired.

Unlike its predecessor, Silk Road, the site does not appear to have been taken down by law enforcement. Some are suspecting foul play by site administrators, known as Kimble and Verto, who may have taken off with millions of dollars in drug money.

After Silk Road, the original “eBay of drugs,” was shut down in 2013, a host of other sites cropped up to take its place. Its successor, Silk Road 2.0, was shut down a year later, and many so-called “deep-web operators" were arrested as part of a global crackdown.

Since then, Evolution has become the top site for anonymous users to purchase drugs and other illicit substances, from hacking tutorials to weapons, using digital currency, bitcoin. But on Tuesday night, the site disappeared without a trace.

Greenberg reported that the site had stopped withdrawals of bitcoin funds over the weekend, claiming “technical difficulties.” On Tuesday night, an Evolution moderator posted a warning on Reddit: "[T]he admins are preparing to exit scam with all the funds. Not a single withdrawal has gone through in almost a week,” he wrote. “I am so sorry, but Verto and Kimble have fucked us all." He claimed to have lost $20,000 worth of bitcoin, and added: "Yes, this is real, no this isn't maintenance."

Overall, more than $12 million in bitcoin may have gone missing in the scam, according to security researcher Brian Krebs.

Members of the Evolution community have responded with outrage and some threats. One warned that the site’s administrators had "24 hours (and that is being generous) to make this right and re-open the market, and allow people access to their funds. Once that time passes—my crystal ball starts talking and unless you've changed identities and moved, you will be F----D."

According to Krebs, the scam could wreak havoc on the deep-web community, causing the price of bitcoin to plummet. The currency’s worth has already dropped to $281, down from $291 on Tuesday, according to CoinDesk stats.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.