The Silk Road, a near-replica of the notorious online marketplace for illegal drugs, came online Wednesday -- a little more than a month after the U.S. Department of Justice shut down its predecessor of the same name.
Like the original Silk Road, the new website uses the anonymous Web surfing tool Tor and hard-to-trace digital currency Bitcoin to try to cover the tracks of drug dealers and users. The new site had more than 500 listings for drugs for sale Wednesday, from cocaine to Ecstasy, and is scheduled to officially start taking orders this week, according to an announcement on the site.
The site's administrator is a person called "Dread Pirate Roberts," the same pseudonym allegedly used by Ross Ulbricht, a San Francisco man federal authorities have charged was the original Silk Road owner.
As part of its takedown operation, the FBI last month arrested Ulbricht, 29, on charges of narcotics trafficking conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, and computer hacking conspiracy. Authorities allege the website facilitated the equivalent of $1.2 billion in sales using Bitcoin during a 2 1/2-year period.
Ulbricht made a brief appearance in federal court in Manhattan Wednesday, during which a judge scheduled a bail hearing for Nov. 21. Ulbricht, a former Eagle Scout with an advanced degree in chemical engineering, is being held without bail.
His lawyer, Joshua Dratel, said Wednesday his client is not the "Dread Pirate Roberts" who ran the first site.
"He's a regular person, a loyal friend . . . someone who has never been in trouble," Dratel said outside court. "We're denying the charges against him."
The major difference between the new site and its predecessor is an encryption key buyers and sellers can use to make it more difficult for authorities to identify them.
Another new wrinkle is a login page that mocks the seizure message posted by the Justice Department on the original Silk Road site, which reads "This Hidden Site Has Been Seized." The new site changes that message to read "This Hidden Site Has Risen Again."
"You can never kill the idea of Silk Road," the new "Dread Pirate Roberts" wrote on his or her Twitter feed shortly before the site came online.
A federal law enforcement source in New York said it's possible the new site is being managed by administrators who helped operate the original Silk Road.
"It doesn't matter how many times they try and resurrect it," the source said of the site. "It's not a legal operation, and it won't last."
Federal authorities on Oct. 2 shut down the original Silk Road, which had more than 900,000 registered users who purchased heroin, cocaine, opioid pills, LSD, Ecstasy and other drugs.