In the 18 months since the Silk Road online black market for narcotics was taken down by a swarm of three-letter agencies, a site known as Evolution has taken its place at the top of the dark web drug trade. Now Evolution, too, has suddenly dropped off the face of the internet. But unlike its Silk Road predecessor, there's no indication that law enforcement took down the newer black market. Instead, it's simply, mysteriously vanished—with rumors swirling that its own administrators may have run off with many millions of dollars of its users' drug money.
Over the past weekend, the massive anonymous market known as Evolution halted withdrawals of bitcoin from its website, telling users that it was dealing with technical difficulties. Then on Tuesday evening, both its market and user forum went offline, with no opportunity for drug buyers and sellers to pull out the funds they had stored in their Evolution accounts. The result has been a wave of panic that's shaken the online black market economy as much as any of the law enforcement drug busts of the last two years.
Late Tuesday, a Reddit user named NSWGreat who had earlier self-described as an Evolution drug dealer and "public relations" staffer —he or she had even hosted an "ask me anything" session about the job days earlier—wrote a post to Reddit's darknet markets forum that claimed to confirm Evolution's administrators had in fact shut down the site's back end too, and escaped with users' money; NSWGreat described confronting Evolution's two pseudonymous owners, Verto and Kimble, who he or she says then admitted they were closing the market and stealing its funds. "I am so sorry, but Verto and Kimble have f–ked us all. I have over $20,000 in escrow myself from sales," NSWGreat wrote. "I'm sorry for everyone's loses, I'm gutted and speechless. I feel so betrayed."