American Journal of Criminal Justice

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 141–157 | Cite as

Use of Bitcoin in Darknet Markets: Examining Facilitative Factors on Bitcoin-Related Crimes

  • Sesha KethineniEmail author
  • Ying Cao
  • Cassandra Dodge


Bitcoin, created in 2008, has become the most widely accepted virtual currency in the world. Some believe that Bitcoin will play a significant role in both e-commerce and money transfers, whereas others believe that Bitcoin transactions are more likely to be used by criminals creating fraudulent investments and engaging in drug trafficking and money laundering. This study addresses (1) whether the traditional criminological concepts are applicable in explaining criminal activities in virtual space, (2) what factors contribute to Bitcoin-related offenses, and (3) what lessons could be learned from the current study of Bitcoin-related criminal cases.


Bitcoin Silk Road Cybercrime Deterrence Space transition theory 


  1. Afilipoaie, A., & Shortis, P. (2015). From dealer to doorstep-how drugs are sold on the dark net. Global Drug Policy Observatory situation analysis. Retrieved November 15, 2015, from
  2. Bitcoin Charts. (2015). Retrieved November 15, 2015, from
  3. Bitcoin mining guide – Getting started with Bitcoin mining. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  4. BitcoinTicker. (2013). Retrieved November 10, 2015, from
  5. Blockchain. (2017, April 13). Bitcoins in circulation. Retrieved April 15, 2017, from
  6. Bohannon, J. (2016, March). Why criminals can’t hide behind Bitcoin. Science. Retrieved October 15, 2016, from
  7. Brenner, S. W. (2001). Is there such a thing as “virtual crime?” California Criminal Law Review, 4. Doi: 10.15779/Z38MC94.
  8. Brenner, S. W. (2002). Organized cybercrime-how cyberspace may affect the structure of criminal relationships. North Carolina Journal of Law & Technology, 4(1), 1–50.Google Scholar
  9. Christin, N. (2013). Traveling the silk road: A measurement analysis of large anonymous online marketplace, 22nd International World Wide Web Conference (pp.213–224). Rio de Janeiro: Brazil. doi: 10.1145/2488388.2488408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. CoinDesk. (2015, March 20). How do bitcoin transactions work? Retrieved April 14, 2017, from
  11. CoinDesk. (2017, April 14). Bitcoin price index chart. Retrieved April 14, 2017, from
  12. Danquah, P., & Longe, O. B. (2011). An empirical test of the space transition theory of cyber criminality: The case of Ghana and beyond. African Journal of Computing & ICTs, 4(2), 37–48.Google Scholar
  13. Drost, N. (2017). Let’s dive into the world of Blockchain. Retrieved March 5, 2016, from
  14. Eyal, I., & Sirer, E. G. (2014). Majority is not enough: Bitcoin mining is vulnerable, In International conference on financial cryptography and data security. (pp. 436–454). Berlin Heidelberg: Springer Retrieved April 14, 2017, from Scholar
  15. Federal Election Commission. (2014). Advisory opinions, 2014–02 Retrieved March 5, 2016, from
  16. Grabosky, P. N. (2001). Virtual criminality: Old wine in new bottles? Social & Legal Studies, 10(2), 243–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Grinberg, R. (2011). Bitcoin: An innovative alternative digital currency. Hastings Science & Technology Law Journal, 4(1), 159–208.Google Scholar
  18. Hall, M. A., & Wright, R. F. (2008). Systematic content analysis of judicial opinions. California Law Review, 96(1), 63–122 Retrieved March 5, 2016, from Scholar
  19. Holt, T. (2015). Crime online: Correlates, causes, and context. In T. Holt (Ed.), Crime online: Correlates, causes, and context (pp. 3–27). Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.Google Scholar
  20. Holt, T., & Bossler, A. (2008). Examining the applicability of lifestyle-routine activities theory for cybercrime victimization. Deviant Behavior, 30(1), 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Holt, T. J., Burruss, G. W., & Bossler, A. M. (2010). Social learning and cyber deviance: Examining the importance of a full social learning model in the virtual world. Journal of Crime and Justice, 33, 15–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hout, M. C. V., & Bingham, T. (2013). “Surfing the silk road”: A study of users’ experiences. International Journal of Drug Policy, 24(6), 524–529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hutchings, A. (2016). Cybercrime trajectories: An integrated theory of initiation, maintenance and desistance. In T. Holt (Ed.), Crime online: Correlates, causes, and context (3rd ed., pp. 117–139). Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.Google Scholar
  24. Internal Revenue Service. (2014). Notice 2014–21. Retrieved March 5, 2016, from
  25. Jaishankar, K. (2007). Establishing a theory of cyber crimes. International Journal of Cyber Criminology, 1(2), 7–9.Google Scholar
  26. Jaishankar, K. (2008). Space transition theory of cyber crimes. In F. Schmallager & M. Pittaro (Eds.), Crimes of the Internet (pp. 283–301). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  27. Kaplanov, N. (2012). Nerdy money: Bitcoin, the private digital currency, and the case against its regulation. Loyola Consumer Law Review, 25(1), 111–174.Google Scholar
  28. Lane, J. (2014). Bitcoin, silk road, and the need for a new approach to virtual currency regulation. Charleston Law Review, 8, 511–535 Retrieved October 10, 2015, from Scholar
  29. Leukfeldt, E. R., & Yar, M. (2016). Applying routine activity theory to cybercrime: A theoretical and empirical analysis. Deviant Behavior, 37(3), 263–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. LexisNexis. (n.d.). LexisNexis Academic. Retrieved March 15, 2016, from
  31. Manning, W. D., & Smock, P. J. (2005). Measuring and modeling cohabitation: New perspectives from qualitative data. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67(4), 989–1002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Meiklejohn, S., Pomarole, M., Jordan, G., Levchenko, K., McCoy, D., Voelker, G., & Savage, S. (2016). A fistful of bitcoins: Characterizing payments among men with no names. Communications of the Association of Computing Machinery, 59(4), 86–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mihm, S. (2013, November 18). Are bitcoins the criminal’s best friend? Bloomberg view. Retrieved October 10, 2015, from
  34. Moore, T., & Christin, N. (2013). Beware the middleman: Empirical analysis of Bitcoin-exchange risk. Retrieved March 5, 2017, from
  35. Morris, R. G. (2011). Computer hacking and the techniques of neutralization: An empirical assessment. In T. J. Holt & B. H. Schell (Eds.), Corporate hacking and technology-driven crime: Social dynamics and implications (pp. 1–17). Hershey, NY: IGI Global.Google Scholar
  36. Morris, R. G., & Higgins, G. E. (2010). Criminological theory in the digital age: The case of social learning theory and digital piracy. Journal of Criminal Justice, 38(4), 470–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nakamoto, S. (2008). Bitcoin: A peer-to-peer electronic cash system. Retrieved October 10, 2016, from
  38. Osborne, C. (2015). Hackers blackmailed Silk Road underground. Retrieved February 25, 2017, from
  39. Pacia, C. (2013, December 30). Beginners’ Guide to PGP. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from
  40. Counter-Extremism Project. (2015). United States of America v. Ali Shukri Amin. Retrieved May 2, 2016, from
  41. Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER). (n.d.). Search the PACER Case Locator. Retrieved November 30, 2015, from PACER:
  42. Reid, F., & Harrigan, M. (2013). An analysis of anonymity in the bitcoin system. In Y. Altshuler & Y. Elovici (Eds.), Security & privacy in social networks (pp. 197–223). New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Securities and Exchange Commission v. Trendon T. Shavers and Bitcoin Savings and Trust. (2013). U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division. Retrieved March 22, 2016, from
  44. State of Florida v. Michell Abner Espinoza. (2016). Circuit Court of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Florida. Retrieved February 13, 2017 from
  45. Sutherland, E. H. (1947). Principles of criminology. Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott.Google Scholar
  46. Sykes, G. M., & Matza, D. (1957). Techniques of neutralization: A theory of delinquency. American Sociological Review, 22(6), 664–670.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Tepper, F. (2016, July). 9. Tech Crunch: The reward for mining Bitcoin was just cut in half Retrieved from
  48. Tor Project. (n.d.). Tor. Retrieved October 10, 2015, from
  49. United States of America v. Ali Shukri Amin. (2015, June 11). Plea agreement, 1–16. Retrieved November 9, 2016, from
  50. United States of America v. Andrew Michael Jones, Gary Davis, and Peter Phillip Nash. (2015, December 19). Indictment, 1–-13. Retrieved November 9, 2016, from,%20Andrew,%20et%20al%20(Silk%20Road)%20Indictment.pdf
  51. United States of America v. Anthony Murgio, Yuri Lebedev and Trenvon Gross. (2016). Indictment, 1–8. Retrieved November 9, 2016, from
  52. United States of America v. Carl Mark Force and Shaun W. Bridges. (2015, March 25). Complaints, 1–95, Retrieved November 9, 2016, from
  53. United States of America v. Gery Shalon, Joshua Samuel Aaron, & Ziv Orenstein. (2015). Retrieved November 9, 2016, from
  54. United States of America v. Jeremy Donagal (a.k.a. “Xanax King,” a.k.a. “XK), et al. (2014, May 22). Indictment, 1–27. Retrieved January 20, 2016, from,%20et%20al%20-%20Indictment.pdf
  55. United States of America v. Robert M. Faiella, a.k.a. “BTCKing” and Charlie Shrem. (2013, Jan 24). Complaints, 1–27. Retrieved January 20, 2016, from
  56. United States of America v. Roger Thomas Clark. (2015, April 21). Complaints, 1–17. Retrieved March 20, 2016, from
  57. United States of America v. Ross William Ulbricht, a.k.a. “Dread Pirate Roberts,” a.k.a. “DPR,” a.k.a. “Silk Road.” (2014, February 4). Indictments, 1–12. Retrieved January 20, 2016, from
  58. United States of America v. Steven Lloyd Sadler, and Jenna M. White. (2013, October 12). Complaints, 1–16. Retrieved January 20, 2016, from
  59. Volastro, A. (2014, January 23). CNBC explains: How to mine bitcoins on your own. CNBC. Retrieved April 14, 2017, from
  60. Wall, D. (2001). Cybercrimes and the Internet. In S. Wall (Ed.), Crime and the Internet (pp. 1–17). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  61. Wechsler, P. (2016). "Dark web" gives cover to criminals. Issue: Cyber Security Retrieved October 10, 2016, from Scholar
  62. Weimann, G. (2016). Terrorist migration to the dark web. Perspectives on Terrorism, 10(3), 40–44.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Southern Criminal Justice Association 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Prairie View A&M UniversityPrairie ViewUSA
  2. 2.University South FloridaTampaUSA

Personalised recommendations