The Evolution Market, considered by many to be the most popular online drug and illegal merchandise marketplace since the original Silk Road, has mysteriously folded without a trace. Also gone are an estimated $12 million in Bitcoins according to some of the site's former merchants.

As Krebs on Security reports, Evolution quickly emerged as the go-to marketplace for all sorts of contraband following the closure of Silk Road in October 2013 (and its spiritual successor just over a year later).

The site operated a bit differently than most, using an escrow system designed to instill trust between buyers and sellers. Because this system was managed in-house, it gave the site's operators - known online as "Kimble" and "Verto" - unabated access to a wealth of nearly untraceable virtual currency.

Over the past few days, withdrawal requests were met with long delays which the mods said was a result of massive and unexpected withdrawal requests that couldn't be satisfied all at once and that everything would be fixed within 24 hours. In hindsight, that request was likely them transferring all of the Bitcoins in escrow to their own personal wallets.

The entire site including the marketplace and community forum shut down before that 24 hours could elapse. Volunteer mods from the community have since taken to Reddit, claiming the masterminds have exit scammed (they essentially stole all of the money and split).

According to one anonymous site user, such a scam should probably have been expected. That's because the two admins used to operate a site called Tor Carding Forum that specialized in credit card fraud. It is now defunct as well.

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