Sheep Marketplace

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Sheep Marketplace
Logo of Sheep Marketplace.png
Type of site
Darknet market
Available inEnglish
URLsheep5u64fi457aw.onion (defunct)[1]
LaunchedMarch 2013
Current statusOffline

Sheep Marketplace was an anonymous marketplace set up as a Tor hidden service. It launched in March 2013 and was one of the lesser known sites to gain popularity with the well publicized closure of the Silk Road marketplace later that year. It ceased operation in December 2013, when it announced it was shutting down after a vendor stole $6 million worth of users' bitcoins.[2][3][4]

Bitcoin theft incident[edit]

In December 2013 Sheep Marketplace announced that one of the site's vendors exploited a vulnerability to steal 5,400 bitcoins, valued at about $6 million at the time.[5][6] According to Forbes and The Guardian, several users reported the site had started to block withdrawals of bitcoins more than a week prior to the theft. Users furthermore suggested the site's administrators held far more than 5,400 bitcoins, pointing to records of a coincidental transfer of almost 40,000.[5][6][7] As users in the site's forums began to complain and discuss the possibility of connivance, administrators took the forum offline.[8]

Victims of the theft have attempted to identify the thief by sending "tagged" bitcoins to his accounts, using the public nature of bitcoin transactions to follow the coins through the blockchain. Within a couple days of the theft, a large amount of bitcoins were noticed being processed by Bitcoin Fog, a tumbler used to launder bitcoins by shuffling them between many accounts for a small fee. The size of the transaction, 96,000 bitcoins, caused Bitcoin Fog to fail, leaving the money traceable.[9][10] Not long thereafter, the last known wallet of the user who had been presumed to be the thief was found to be a wallet owned by BTC-e, a large bitcoin currency exchange. This has led to speculation that the thief sent their money to the exchange in the hope of trading the coins for alternate crypto-currencies or moving to new wallets to further obfuscate their path.[11]

In May 2016 two men from Florida, then 21-year old students Sean Mackert and Nathan Gibson, were arrested after tracing Bitcoin transactions via Coinbase.[12] Subsequently, the pair pled guilty to the crime of Bitcoin wire fraud on Sheep Marketplace in 2018 and are now facing a maximum prison time of up to twenty years.[13] About $4 million worth of Bitcoin stolen by Mackert and Gibson has since been seized by the United States Federal government.[14] The overwhelming evidence found against Sean Mackert and Nathan Gibson in which they were found to be guilty beyond reasonable doubt also exonerated other persons of interests in the case since the allegations of theft against the latter were found to be baseless and the evidence unsatisfying. Thus, the case is closed.


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 July 2017. Retrieved 1 September 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Adrianne Jeffries (29 April 2013). "Drugs, porn, and counterfeits: the market for illegal goods is booming online". The Verge. Archived from the original on 28 September 2017. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  3. ^ "Dark marketplace closes after theft of £3m in bitcoins". BBC News. 2 December 2013. Archived from the original on 15 June 2018. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  4. ^ Mandala, Ravi (1 December 2013). "Silk Road-like Sheep Marketplace scams users; over 39k Bitcoins worth $40 million stolen". Techie News. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  5. ^ a b Green berg, Andy (1 December 2013). "Silk Road Competitor Shuts Down And Another Plans To Go Offline After Claimed $6 Million Theft". Forbes. Archived from the original on 26 May 2017. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  6. ^ a b Hern, Alex (3 December 2013). "Online drugs marketplace shut down after £3.5m bitcoin hack". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 21 April 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
  7. ^ "Block chain record". Archived from the original on 28 March 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
  8. ^ Sankin, Aaron (2 December 2013). "Sheep Marketplace scam reveals everything that's wrong with the Deep Web". Daily Dot. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  9. ^ Edwards, Jim (3 December 2013). "A Thief Is Attempting To Hide $100 Million In Stolen Bitcoins — And You Can Watch It Live Right Now". SFGate. Archived from the original on 7 December 2013. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  10. ^ "I just Chased him through a bitcoin tumbler, and when he Came out with 96,000 BTC, I was Waiting for Him..." Reddit. 1 December 2013. Archived from the original on 21 July 2017. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  11. ^ Alex Hern. "Recovering stolen bitcoin: a digital wild goose chase | Technology". Archived from the original on 9 July 2019. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  12. ^ Shin, Laura. "Mystery Solved: $6.6 Million Bitcoin Theft That Brought Down Dark Web Site Tied To 2 Florida Men". Forbes. Archived from the original on 9 September 2017. Retrieved 30 August 2021.
  13. ^ Scanlan, Dan. "Forefeited funds seized from 2 Jacksonville men awarded to agencies that helped investigate bitcoin theft". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved 5 July 2022.
  14. ^ "More Than $1.7 Million In Forfeited Funds Presented To Law Enforcement Agencies". 17 January 2018. Archived from the original on 30 August 2021. Retrieved 30 August 2021.