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They Both Allegedly Started Drug and Crime Marketplaces...And They Both Made the Same Dumb Mistake to Get Caught

It's all in the email addresses...

Blake Benthall, left, and Ross Ulbricht, right, the alleged founders of the Silk Road marketplaces for illegal goods and activities. (Image via Business Insider/Facebook)

Starting up an online marketplace for illegal drugs and criminal jobs? You probably want to keep your name a secret.

But when it came to the drug- and crime-fueled Silk Road and Silk Road 2.0, the tech-savvy men allegedly running the show couldn't keep their names out of things.

Business Insider's James Cook examined the fatal, dumb mistake that both alleged Silk Road founders made: They connected their personal email addresses to the Silk Road activity.

Blake Benthall, left, and Ross Ulbricht, right, the alleged founders of the Silk Road marketplaces for illegal goods and activities. (Image via Business Insider/Facebook) Blake Benthall, left, and Ross Ulbricht, right, the alleged founders of the Silk Road marketplaces for illegal goods and activities. (Image via Business Insider/Facebook)

Ross Ulbricht, the alleged founder of the Silk Road, was arrested in October 2013 and linked to the illicit marketplace.

The FBI had a relatively easy time of it, since Ulbricht apparently posted his personal email address, rossulbricht@gmail.com, on a bitcoin forum where he said he was looking to hire IT pros.

The blunt connection between Ulbricht's personal and business activities came despite the fact that Ulbricht normally took extensive precautions to mask his online identity, Cook noted.

The alleged founder of the Silk Road 2.0, Blake Benthall, was arrested on Wednesday and it seems he didn't learn from Ulbricht's mistake.

The email address blake@benthall.net was connected to the Silk Road 2.0, so when the FBI took down the second iteration of the marketplace, the notification emails went straight to Benthall, the agency said.

Of course, in the case of the Silk Road 2.0, the FBI also had another big advantage: an undercover agent who gained the trust of the website's moderators before the site even launched.

The cases of Ulbricht and Benthall point to a basic fact that undercuts all the sophisticated technology in the world: One dumb mistake can bring a whole enterprise tumbling down.

Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter

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