Evolution, the most popular online drug market since the Silk Road, has disappeared without warning. Users say $12 million in Bitcoin has also vanished. And it looks like a classic scam.

The darknet market, which sells guns, stolen goods, and counterfeits along with pretty much any drug you can think of, gained fans by loading more quickly and staying online more reliably than competitors like Agora and the various Silk Road clones. Its multi-signature escrow system was designed to prevent rip-offs, and the site was easy to browse. Evolution looked so polished and professional that people worried it was the FBI honeydicking its way to another drug bust.

It doesn't look like the FBI was involved in this disappearance, though. There's no takedown notice, no announcement about shutting down the internet's current king of illegal sales. Vendors and customers are furious—their money is gone, and a staff member is saying that the site's pseudonymous creators have taken the money and bounced.

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For the past few days, delays have hobbled the site. Vendors and users haven't been able to withdraw their money. And now, Evolution is nowhere to be found when you search Tor, the dark web browser used to access it.

"Kimble" and "Verto" are Evolution's head honchos—like the Silk Road's erstwhile Dread Pirate Roberts, they run the show. As Evolution users scramble to figure out why the site is down, these creators are gaining a villainous reputation. One of Evolution's vendors announced the exit scam on Reddit, just days after hosting a glowing AMA talking about how much he liked the service:

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I have admin access to see parts of the back end, the admins are preparing to exit scam with all the funds. Not a single withdrawal has gone through in almost a week. Automatic withdrawals has been disabled which is only doing on rare occasions

I am so sorry, but Verto and Kimble have fucked us all. I have over $20,000 in escrow myself from sales.

I can't fucking believe it, absolute scum. I am giving this warning to you all as soon as I possibly could of.

Confronted Kimble and Verto about it, they confirmed it and they're doing it right now..

It'll be damn near impossible for vendors and buyers to get their money back if this is a true scam. They did, after all, put their money in the hands of people involved in running an illegal digital black market. So this is a bad day for anyone with a substantial chunk of change getting held by the service.

It's a great day for Agora, Evolution's main competitor. Without its more polished rival around, Agora is likely to see an influx of new customers.


Contact the author at kate.knibbs@gizmodo.com.
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