Most Californians remember last year’s arrest of the man calling himself “Dread Pirate Roberts” (from the movie “The Princess Bride”) in the dark Web site “Silk Road,” which enabled the purchase of narcotics through the use of bitcoins, a type of Internet currency. Now, another arrest has been made in this federal case, this time of a 26-year old self-identified tech geek living in San Francisco. Federal authorities allege that this individual (name withheld to protect the accused) took over for the Dread Pirate Roberts once it was certain that he would not soon return to run the site. The man authorities believe is “Defcon,” is their latest suspect and has been charged not only with the sale of narcotics, but also with money laundering, identity fraud, and computer hacking. His arrest was the result of an Internet sting conducted by various members of different law enforcement agencies.
When and if “Defcon” can be identified with certainty, he or she will face charges similar to those that the unnamed suspect above has been charged with. In California, most cybercrimes fall under CA Penal Code 502 (the “Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Alert Act”), which is a ‘wobbler’ (meaning that it can be prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or as a felony, depending on the facts of the case). Penalties range anywhere from 1 year in county jail to 3 years in state prison and fines are hefty.
However, ”Defcon” will face, not state penalties, but federal ones relating to 18 United States Code 1028 (“Fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents, authentication features, and information”). Penalties at this level are up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted of drug trafficking crime (CA Penal Code 11350-11356). It seems that federal agents will go to any lengths to stop such dark Web sites and to break through the anonymity that the Internet provides for anyone they perceive to be breaking the law.