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Former Silk Road Agent Attempted To Flee The Country, Re-Arrested

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3.0 is now also down for Upgrades but may be a long time. The best option at the moment is to check out AlphaBay Market as they are the biggest Darknet Market and have a massive selection of good for sale.

>> Click here to find the AlphaBay Market Guide <<

bridges.headshotFormer Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges was re-arrested on 28th of January 2016. This arrest comes just one day before he was scheduled to turn himself in to prison authorities in Baltimore to begin his sentence of 71 months for the theft of 20,000 bitcoins with an estimated value of about $800,000 in connection to investigations into the Silk Road. He was suspected of trying to flee the country and so had to be arrested. Prosecutors say the arrest went without incident, but that the arresting officers discovered passports, bulletproof vests and documents for offshore companies in Mauritius, Belize and Nevis. At least one of the bullet proof vests had Secret Service markings on it and is therefore believed to have been stolen from the government.

Also discovered during the arrest were documents for his wife, Ariana Esposito, which shows her attempts at obtaining citizenship in a different country. A MacBook with scratched off serial number and an iPad were also discovered. Exactly what all of the evidence means is hard to say but prosecutors argue that it is enough proof that Bridges never intended to report to prison authorities as scheduled.

Sentencing to 71 months

Shaun Bridges pleaded guilty in October 2015 to charges of money laundering and obstruction of justice in connection to the Silk Road case, and agreed to pay $500,000 in restitution. He was then released on bail and later sentenced to 71 months in jail in December 2015.

During his sentencing back in December, 2015, Bridges was ordered to forfeit all funds which are a result of the Bitcoin theft from the Silk Road. These include $475,000 in cash, and funds held in investments. The US District Judge Richard Seeborg while sentencing Bridges said the case was to him an extremely serious crime which consisted of the betrayal of the public’s trust from a public official, and that it was motivated by greed. And although he hardly ever finds himself in a position to impose high-end sentences, he did find it warranted in this case.

A little background of the Bitcoin theft

As a Secret Service agent, Shaun Bridges was charged with guarding the members of the First Family. He has also worked for the National Security Agency and has been considered a kind of hero. But after he got assigned to the Silk Road Task Force, things started to change.

In May of 2013, Bridges wired $820,000 from his account at Mt. Gox, which was the largest Bitcoin exchange in the world back then into an account belonging to Quantum International Investments, LLC, a company he had just registered in February of the same year. Two days later, he closes down Mt. Gox by seizing $2.1 million in its accounts with a seizure warrant against Mt. Gox which he organized. While on the surface, everything looked like he was a serious cop doing his job, the seizure of the funds at Mt. Gox was actually a stunt to prevent authorities from finding out about his $820,000 because he had heard that an investigation was being carried out against Mt. Gox. By this action, the investigation was shut down but Bridges’ problems were not yet over.

The Curtis Green Story

Early in 2013, the Silk Road Task Force, with which Shaun Bridges worked, had a major breakthrough in their case against the Dread Pirate Roberts, the owner of the Silk Road. They arrested a man named Curtis Green, who was a moderator on the website, and in order to receive a lighter punishment, Green decided to cooperate with the authorities.

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Having decided to help the “good guys” as he put it, he went ahead to give 100% detailed information on any question asked him. He revealed to the agents how to log onto the Silk Road servers, how to change passwords, and how to perform other administrative tasks. According to Green, one agent kept asking him over and over to describe how to log in, and how to change passwords, that agent was Shaun Bridges.

Making the Steal – 20,000 Bitcoins

Having taken enough notes from the interrogation of Curtis Green, Bridges went to work on the servers of the Silk Road, he changed the passwords of all the drug dealers on the website, thereby locking them out of their accounts, and then transferred all their bitcoins into the account of Curtis Green. They were approximately 20,000 bitcoins in total, and they had an estimated worth of about $300, 000 then.

Framing Curtis Green

When Bridges transferred the bitcoins he stole into Green’s account on the Silk Road, he had effectively made it seem like it was Green who had stolen the money. The members of the site who have lost money then also later heard that Green was cooperating with the authorities and his frame-up was complete. He explained that he received well over 30 death threats from people who though he had stolen their money, and that the Dread Pirate Roberts himself ordered hit on him.

Unluckily for the Dread Pirate Roberts, one of the killers he hired on the website was none other than Carl Mark Force IV, who was working undercover on the Silk Road. The agents worked together with Green to fool the Dread Pirate Roberts into believing he had been murdered. They took pictures of him lying in a dead position and faked it well, DPR believed it, and it was this hit on Green that would help cause his arrest.

The Turnout

In May 2014, Carl Mark Force IV, who was not very careful with his illegal activities got reported by a Bitcoin exchange named Bitstamp. On March 18, 2015, Bridges was suspended as a result of Mark Force’s case having shed light on his own illegal activities. He resigned, and things have been getting worse for him since then.

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Today, he is in jail, his wife, Ariana Esposito, who quickly married him so as to evoke spousal immunity and not testifies against him in court, has lost her chance for a job as a state trooper, after having completed the trooper academy. Ross Ulbricht a.k.a the Dread Pirate Roberts was sentenced to life in prison and Carl Mark Force IV was sentenced to six and a half years. Curtis Green was sentenced to time served and is currently undergoing therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Silk Road Staff “Chronicpain” Sentenced To Time Served

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3 Guide <<

123Curtis Green, a former Silkroad staff was last month sentenced to time served, four years and two days of supervised release by Judge Catherine Blake – a US chief district judge. This took place in a Baltimore court after Curtis, who was also commonly known as “Chronicpain” in the Silkroad community pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply and possess with intent to supply cocaine.

Curtis acted as moderator on the famous dark web drug site – Silkroad – under the monikers “Flush” and “Chronicpain,” working on the harm reduction side of the Silkroad forum and helping out people with customer support issues.

He previously said in a statement that he got involved in Silkroad because he was interested in the bitcoin trade and the Silkroad website was the biggest market where bitcoins could be found. The former Silkroad employee also added that he had interest in reducing drug use related harm.

Green’s life took an unexpected and dramatic turn however, when heavily armed Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and SWAT agents brought down his door on a January morning in 2013.

The Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR), the pseudonymous founder of the Silkroad who was later exposed as Ross Ulbricht, learned quickly that one of his Silkroad employees had been nabbed by the police. The Silkroad founder suspected that the police would force Green to help them in their mission to hunt him and the entire Silkroad community down. In addition to this, an enormous wad of bitcoins that had been stolen from Silkroad was later traced back to Curtis. It would later be revealed that Shaun Bridges, a crooked Secret Service agent had used Curtis’ account to steal the bitcoins.

Dread Pirate Roberts contacted with one of his loyal drug dealers, Nob, and called on him to take Green’s life. In return, Nob would get to receive $40,000 if he managed to succeed in his mission as requested by Ulbricht. A few days later, Nob sent Ulbricht some photos of Green covered in Campbell Chicken & Stars soup as well as a victim of a seeming asphyxiation, in order to prove that the murder had successfully been carried out.

Little did DPR know that Nob was not a drug dealer, as he had always thought. As a matter of fact, he was Carl Mark Force IV, the same Drug Enforcement Agency guy who had led the arrest of Green.

It was the idea of Force to stage the torture of Green and fake his murder, and later send the spoofed photos to Ulbricht. The charge that Ross Ulbricht was a key suspect in the murder-for-hire of Curtis is still pending in Maryland. All the other murder-for-hire accusations, associated with the supposed targeting other persons aren’t formal charges.

Ross, especially after he was sentenced to life in prison for starting the Silkroad has had many members of the public contribute to his defense fund. Curtis also started a crowd-funding campaign similar to Ulbricht’s after charges against Bridges and Force were filed, in order to “deal with dirty federal agents.” As of May last year, Green had managed to raise $25 from a colleague, out of his overall target of $50,000.

After his boss’ life sentence last year, Green went ahead to tweet that he was indeed “surprised” at how harsh the ruling was. Green didn’t respond to a request by the media for comment. His lawyers too couldn’t be reached at the time for comment.

Ulbricht_PassportIn a plea agreement signed sometimes back, Green had admitted to possessing more than a kilogram of cocaine, which he intended to distribute. He had accepted the package from an undercover US postal inspector in January, 2013. An earlier criminal complaint dated October of the same year, against Ross Ulbricht gave the same storyline about a person identified only as “the Employee.”

The complaint alleged that Ross was aware of a Silkroad employee’s contact with FBI and had attempted to pay a total of around $80,000 in order to have that person killed because of that interaction. It turns out as explained earlier on that the person in question Green, and his online and real identities weren’t revealed in the original complaints.

By pleading guilty, Curtis acknowledged that he had not only handled drugs but was also working as an administrator on Silkroad where he went by the handles “Chronicpain” and ”Flush.”

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Brothers Ordered Drugs On Darknet Sites Like Silk Road, Sentenced

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3 Guide <<
Two brothers, 30 and 32 yrs. old, from Furth Germany have been sentenced to 4 yrs. imprisonment for drug related charges. Though their names were not made public by law enforcement agencies and the prosecution itself, according to published court documents they used darknet sites including Silk Road to order cannabis, ecstasy and bhang online. They resold the same drugs to random customers on the street, while also consuming a part of it themselves. Prosecutors mentioned that the duo traded in these illegal substances for approximately 2 yrs., between 2012 and 2014.

Two German Brothers Sentenced
Court files show that the narcotics were delivered to their personal physical address in Furth. With an estimated weight value of 1800 grams amphetamine, 1700 grams cannabis, 120 ecstasy tablets and some amount of cocaine. During investigations, German authorities seized a package which they examined thoroughly at their Schleswig-Holstein station in early 2015. Thereafter, the older sibling who by that time was a teacher had his apartment searched by officers. This resulted in authorities arresting the suspect at his place of work.

A few months down the line his younger brother was also captured. They were both presented before Nuremberg-Furth’s 7th Criminal Court, and following their confession the magistrate sentenced them to 4 yrs. incarceration plus also arranged for their rehabilitation in a recovery center.

Silk Road is a currently defunct darknet site that was previously used to sell narcotics during its active days. It was run using a Tor hidden platform where users could browse anonymously without fear of being monitored by outsiders. The website was first opened in February 2011, though construction had begun 6 months earlier. Initially there were just but a handful of seller accounts on display, and new users had to buy an account through auction. However, later as Silk Road developed a fixed monetary sum was placed on each new retailer account.

The site was administered by Ross Ulbricht who went by the pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts” or simply DPR; he championed libertarian ideals while criticizing internet regulation by authorities. Other than him, two other individuals known as Smedley and Variety Jones were closely involved in overseeing the Silk Road site’s growth and overall success.

Ross UlbirchtUlbricht was arrested in October 2013 by FBI agents after they discovered he owned Silk Road, the takedown happened in San Francisco at a public library named Glen Park. The man was convicted to 7 criminal charges in a Manhattan U.S. Federal Court, and given a life sentence without parole. Some of the charges prosecutors brought forward against DPR in court were money laundering, computer hacking, conspiracy to traffic drugs and attempt to kill six people. They alleged that he paid $730,000 to assassins for the murders, though none of them actually occurred in real life. Ulbricht was not sentenced for any of the murder-for-hire claims.

From this Silk Road operation, cops seized about 26,000 bitcoins with an estimated value of $3.6 million. Moreover, during trial FBI announced that they will continue holding up the bitcoins until his case was finished, after which they would be officially liquidated. Much later during the case cops announced that they intercepted another 144,000 bitcoins belonging to DPR, with an estimated value of $28.5 million. Yet another $87 million worth of bitcoins was also found on Ross’ computer.

After his capture, the Silk Road trial on Ulbricht began on 13th Jan 2015 where he claimed to have opened the site, but later on transferred control to other personnel who took charge of operations. Ulbricht’s attorneys argued that the account name Dread Pirate Roberts was actually being run by a man named Mark Karpeles, and that it was Karpeles who used Ross as a fall guy. However, presiding judge Katherine Forrest ruled that those were mere speculations and prosecution would strictly be based on Silk Road evidence already with the court.

Even after official closure of the first Silk Road site, administrators announced on 6th November 2013 that they had opened another similar network named Silk Road 2.0, purportedly led by a new Dread Pirate Roberts. During its first few days, they recreated the predecessor’s original site setup and also promised enhanced security upgrades to prevent crackdown. But Silk Road 2.0 was also shut down in November 2014 as part of the “Operation Onymous.”

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Force’s Lawyer Sees Ulbricht Appeal will Not Likely Be Successful

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3 Guide <<

Ross-William-UlbrichtIn light of recent revelations regarding the rogue actions of Carl Mark Force IV, Ross Ulbricht has made an appeal to be freed. His defense attorney, Joshua Dratel stated that they were well aware of the fact that Carl Mark Force IV was a rogue cop, but they could not use that information during the Silkroad trials because they were not allowed to do so. Even though Silkroad is termed as one of the most “sophisticated and extensive criminal market,” many see it as an extreme expression of libertarianism. Needless to say, Ross Ulbricht’s Silkroad is seen by some as a radical experiment and he even has multiple supporters who have protested against his life sentence in prison as a “draconian sentence.”

However, Ivan Bates, Carl Mark Force’s lawyer stated that he thinks that Ross Ulbricht will not be granted an appeal as he was caught red handed and it is certain that he was the main perpetrator responsible for Silkroad. Ivan Bates clearly defended his client’s actions related to the Silkroad incident saying that Carl Force was not mentally stable because of excessive stress and should have never been assigned to the Silkroad undercover mission. Identifying Force as a man who has “given so much for his country and his family,” Bates blamed the government for not providing adequate help to Carl Force to combat mental illness and for wrongfully assigning him to the Silkroad mission.

Bates said that the rogue actions of Carl Force do not provide any guarantee that Ross Ulbricht will automatically be freed. He even went on record saying that the government usually builds its evidence well, and “there was probably more evidence” about Silkroad “than what’s even known.”

Bates identifies Carl Force as a remorse individual. Upon the court’s recommendation, Carl Force can attend a hospital on the federal side so as to handle and control his mental illness. Bates is hopeful that this might help him to do better eventually and move on with his life. The lawyer insists that there is hardly much comparison between Ulbricht and Force, considering the fact that the latter behaved irresponsibly because he had too much on his plate during the Silkroad investigations.

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Silk Road “CouponKing” Sentenced To 41 Months

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3 Guide <<

court rulesA federal judge has sentenced Beau Wattigney to 41 months in prison for manufacturing and selling counterfeit coupons through Silk Road, an anonymous online marketplace that trafficked almost anything before it was shut down by the FBI in October 2013. Wattigney was in the lucrative dark web trade of fake coupons from 2012 to 2014.

The 30-year-old man from New Orleans pleaded guilty to running the scheme with the help of several co-conspirators and that they made the coupons to appear like original print-at-ho me coupons using the trademark logos of other companies. The charges were the latest to be levelled against people who have dealt with illegal items on Silk Road – including the kingpin, Ross Ulbricht, who was sentenced to life in prison.

Beau WattigneyMost online profiles have identified Mr. Wattigney as a system support technician at the ITT Technical Institute. According to the Justice Department, Wattigney sold thousands of fake coupons over a period of two years, from 2012 to 2014, affecting more than 50 different companies in the US, representing a possible loss to the businesses of more than $1 million. Wattigney and his team used logos of popular coupon distributors such as SmartSource, Hopster, RedPlum and Coupons.com.

Under online monikers such as PurpleLotus, NickMode and GoldenLotus, Wattigney sold the counterfeit coupons for every product imaginable including cigarettes, alcohol, beauty products, cleaning supplies, video games, and consumer electronics. Wattigney also sold products like $50 Visa Gift Cards for around $0.01 each. Some of his vouchers were also sold in packs for around $54.44.

According to prosecutors, Wattigney steadily made more than $75,000 between 2012 and 2014. Since his initial arrest, authorities have been promoting his case as part of a wider crackdown on cybercrime. Over the last few years, authorities have stepped up the fight against cybercrime and shut down several anonymous online shops, including Silk Road.

In one court document relating to Wattigney’s confession, his defence team wrote that Wattigney created these fake coupons himself, and with the help of other co-conspirators, including one individual who operates under the nickname “wraith.”

Wattigney sold his coupons through the original Silk Road site and its successor, Silk Road 2.0, and distributed them throughout the country. On the Silk Road 2.0, Wattigney marketed the items with the help of another other co-conspirators, and created an entirely new identity, “CouponKing,” so as to have control of the entire fake coupon market, read court documents.

The Coupon Information Corporation, a non-profit association dedicated to fighting fraudulent coupons, bought hundreds of coupons from Wattigney as part of their investigations. The FBI also retrieved transaction histories and messages on Silk Road server as part of their investigation into Wattigney.

The same month Wattigney was charged with fraud, a group of vendors calling themselves TeamLotus wrote on The Hub that they were taking control after PurpleLotus had “retired.” TeamLotus’ dark web marketplace is offline currently, and the seller has been listed as “Vacation Mode” on yet another popular marketplace for fraudulent activities – AlphaBay.

While not mentioned in the charges, Wattigney offered lessons that taught people how to create fake coupons. In his guide, “The Art and Science of Coupon Creation,” Wattigney gives comprehensive instructions on how to create authentic-looking counterfeit coupons. Wattigney’s tutorial is already in circulation and apparently in use. So while he may be in prison, his handiwork lives on.

But authorities have said that Wattigney’s case should put other counterfeiters on notice. They are determined to pursue their own fight against those who create and sell fraudulent stuff of any kind online.

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The Silk Road Creator’s Defense Team Appeal His Conviction

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3 Guide <<

Ross-William-UlbrichtLawyers for Ross Ulbricht informed an appeals court that the Silk Road founder deserves a new trial. They also told the court that the trial should be focused on the two federal agents who have admitted to involving in corrupt misconduct at the time of investigating the operations of the online black market.

In the 170-page appeal brief that they filed on Tuesday, Ulbricht’s lawyers requested the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the U.S. to throw off his conviction as well as life sentence for creating and operating the Silk Road. The dark web marketplace sold illegal goods such as fake driver’s licenses and heroin to buyers from around the world.

A year ago, a federal jury in Manhattan had determined that the 31-year old founder of the Silk Road was guilty of seven criminal charges following a trial. The charges included conspiracies to launder money, hack computers and sell drugs and the “kingpin” charge, which is usually reserved for drug cartel leaders and mafia bosses. Katherine Forrest, a U.S. District Judge, sentenced Ulbricht to a life term in prison.

Within two months after the conviction of the Silk Road founder, San Francisco prosecutors unveiled charges against two federal agents, Shaun Bridges and Carl Force, who were involved in investigating the operations of Ross Ulbricht. Shaun Bridges was an agent with the Secret Service and Carl Force was an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Both of them have been sentenced to approximately six years of imprisonment.

In Tuesday’s filing, the lawyers representing Ulbricht said that the defense was prevented from presenting any kind of evidences against the corrupt federal agents by Judge Katherine Forrest during the course of trial last year. This was because the government had directed that secrecy should be maintained when investigating corruption charges. In the Manhattan trial, the federal prosecutors had also said that their investigation into the Silk Road was carried out independent of the investigation of those corrupt federal agents and that the evidence presented against them would in no way have impacted the outcome of the trial.

Joshua Dratel, Ulbricht’s lead attorneyHowever, the contention of Joshua Dratel, Ulbricht’s lead attorney, is that the defense was neither aware of Bridges’ involvement or the scope of the corruption charges in its entirety until after the completion of the trial. He also said that a need to maintain any kind of secrecy was not there as Force was well aware of the investigation prior to the beginning of Ross Ulbricht’s trial. According to Dratel, evidence related to charges against the corrupt federal agents was relevant at the time of the Manhattan trial as the investigation into the activities of the Silk Road was a coordinated effort of many federal districts.

The lawyers of Ross Ulbricht have also requested for a new sentencing by a different judge. Their contention is that the life sentence given to the Silk Road founder was unreasonable as Judge Forrest allowed only the government to present evidence on six overdose deaths that were linked to drugs sold on the Silk Road website, which the defense had always disputed.

During the brief, Ulbricht’s lawyers continued to register their objection to the way in which evidence was presented during the trial. They said that Judge Forrest did not heed to their request to cross-examine witnesses and establish alternate perpetrators (other than Ulbricht). In addition, Ulbricht’s lawyers opined that the Judge should not have allowed presentation of evidence obtained from his Gmail and Facebook accounts as the seizure and search of his laptop by the authorities was illegal.

It is expected that the response to this appeal will be filed by the lawyers representing the government in the near future. Prosecutors are likely to counter argue saying that the offenses committed by Force and Bridges did not have any bearing on the conviction of Ulbricht for the crimes committed by him. This is because Force and Bridges were part of the investigation task force in Baltimore and not part of the FBI’s team (which included agents from the DHS and the IRS) that was led by their office in New York. Further, both Force and Bridges did not testify at Ulbricht’s trial and the office of the FBI in New York had carefully segregated itself from the activities of the task force in Baltimore. Actually, the segregation of the two teams resulted in Ulbricht being separately indicted for attempted murder. This charge was not included in the New York case and it has not been tried so far.

However, the argument being put forward by Ulbricht’s lawyers is that the segregation between Baltimore and New York was not as tight as the government made it out to be. According to Dratel, a DHS agent who was part of the Silk Road investigation team in New York often spoke as well as exchanged intelligence with Force.

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The IRS Investigator Who Pinned Down Silk Road DPR

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3 Guide <<

For Internet fanatics, the story of the Silk Road’s rise and fall is one of the news that they will never forget. It is a story worthy of a film of its own. Yet, most great stories start with a beginning, and there lies the problem.

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By mid-2013, Silk Road is facilitating sales of drugs amounting to $300,000 a day. At this point, Silk Road has been running for about two years. For the authorities, the real problem was very basic – they simply did not know who the man behind the curtains is. This all changed when an unlikely agent came into the scene.

Most people would imagine a super techie genius to hunt down the man known as DPR. In reality, the name is Gary L. Alford. And no, he is not from the FBI, Homeland Security or from other big name government security agencies. Mr. Alford is an IRS agent. It was a tax sleuth that actually first identified Ross W. Ulbricht as the Dread Pirate Roberts. If that’s not surprising enough, you won’t believe how he traced Mr. Ulbricht.

Once again, most people would assume that Gary Alford used supercomputers with a mind-boggling algorithm to search for the infamous man behind Silk Road. Sorry to burst your bubble, but Mr. Alford simply relied on trusty old’ Google. And no, it hasn’t taken complicated algorithms or scripts to bust the case wide open. Mr. Alford simply used his understanding of human behavior, how things work and persistence. His formula was actually very simple, but it took some time to execute; which makes Mr. Alford a genius in his own ways. But, Mr. Alford had his shares of massive disappointment while grueling the case.

It took 3 months for Mr. Alford to find enough evidence to present his case to his superiors, which states that Ross W. Ulbricht is the Dread Pirate Roberts. You might be thinking that everyone in the operation was thrilled to finally find a prime suspect.

This was not the case. In fact, a day in June 2013, Gary Alford was running to work with adrenaline pumping in his blood. Mr. Alford was expecting that he’ll be greeted with excited as he finally uncovered the possible real name of Dread Pirate Rogers, including his address. Instead, he was greeted with a brush off. Looking back at it, even Mr. Alford admitted that it was easy for him to be ignored.

Gary Alford joined the investigation pretty late. Also, he came from the IRS joining the ranks of other more prominent agencies in a joint operation. Lastly, Mr. Alford was not a real techie when compared to the cybercrime guys of the FBI. Mr. Alford looked at the problem in a different perspective, which leads him to the pinpointing Ross W. Ulbricht as DPR.

In this day and age of technical investigation, it’s easy to assume that you need genius-level tech skills and knowledge to break a case as big as the Silk Road. However, for Mr. Alford, he largely relies on human behavior. For him, here is a guy, sitting behind to a computer, making a stupid mistake prior to Silk Road’s meteoric rise.

Aged 42, Peter Nash pled guiltyYes, it was a careless mistake of Mr. Ulbricht that led to his demise. In retrospect, it was not really that reckless, as he never envisioned how Silk Road would become a giant player in the drug trade.

Mr. Alford used Google’s advance search options. Specifically, he was looking for Internet postings for the first mentions of the Silk Road. By late May of 2013, Mr. Alford spotted a name known as “Altoid,” asking if anyone has heard of the Silk Road, and this was in early 2011.

During the first weekends of June 2013, Mr. Alford scoured every posting that “Altoid” made. It’s similar to scouring for evidence under trashcans near the area of a crime scene. He then got lucky.

“Altoid” made a comment, about asking for programming help, and he posted his email address “[email protected]” along with it. This was very lucky as “Altoid” deleted the comment, but was preserved because of a reply made by another user. By this time, Mr. Alford had a name.

Mr. Alford continued to search everything to know about Mr. Ulbricht, and what he found out was very interesting. Mr. Ulbricht was very vocal about his political views on his social media accounts. Here is a guy that admired free-market economy, admired Ludwig von Mises and a libertarian. These were the same qualities that you can find with a Dread Pirate Robert’s post in the Silk Road forum. Mr. Alford forwarded his finding to his supervisors.

However, it failed to generate some buzz, but Mr. Alford continued to collect evidence against Mr. Ulbricht. At the time, his goal was to make Mr. Ulbricht’s name as a potential suspect of the Silk Road, next to the DRP, Dead Pirate Roberts and Altoid aliases. When his findings were not being heard, he went straight up to the head.

Mr. Serrin Turner was the Manhattan federal prosecutor and was overseeing the entire operation. Mr. Turner was juggling different operations and Mr. Alford’s persistence lead to a heated argument. For Mr. Alford, it seems he’s not making any progress and was one of his colleagues even suggested about quitting.

Thankfully, Mr. Alford ignored the suggestion and continued to build his case. During the early days of September, he requested one of his colleagues to run another background check of Mr. Ulbricht, just in case he missed something critical. Mr. Alford’s colleague then gave him a major break.

Mr. Alford’s colleague found out a report concerning Mr. Ulbricht. There were nine fake IDs seized at the Canadian border. The fake IDs were addressed to Mr. Ulbricht. As the report of the incident was being read, things grew much more intriguing.

The report stated that Mr. Ulbricht was questioned about the fake IDs. Mr. Ulbricht declined any idea about them. However, Mr. Ulbricht voluntarily commented that “hypothetically” anyone could order fake IDs in a site known as the Silk Road.

Armed with this finding, Mr. Alford called Mr. Turner and forwarded his information. This time, Mr. Turner was ecstatic about the report, including the use of profane words out of sheer enthusiasm. This is where the next chapter of the Silk Road story starts.

Mr. Turner then mobilized resources focusing on Mr. Ulbricht. This is the part of the story in which most people know about – the laptop-grabbing ending and a life sentence conviction.

But like every great story, it starts somewhere. For this part, the real breakthrough started with Mr. Alford pinpointing the real identity of Dread Pirate Roberts.

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The Silk Road And Dark Web In 2015

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3 Guide <<

In spite of shutting down many of the black marketplaces operating on the dark web in 2015, the anonymous network continues to hog the limelight. Additionally, the dark web is now emerging as a legitimate tool for many a purpose. Read on to find out what was swamped out of the dark web in the past one year.

Silkroad Is Still Making News

Notwithstanding the fact that Silkroad was shut down over a couple of years ago, May 2015 saw the conviction of the Silkroad founder Ross Ulbricht. The Silkroad creator was sentenced to life imprisonment (owing to charges on seven counts that include narcotics conspiracy, computer hacking, and money laundering), though his defense is appealing the conviction decision. The moderators of the Silkroad forum were not spared either. Whereas Peter Nash, the Silkroad forum moderator, has come out of the prison after 18 months, Gary Davis, who was allegedly accused of being a Silkroad administrator bearing the codename “Libertas,” is even now fighting his extradition procedures from Ireland to the US.

Silkroad shut down
The most sensational Silkroad related arrest of the year was that of Roger Thomas Clark, purportedly the right-hand man of Dread Pirate Roberts. Codenamed “Variety Jones,” he was arrested as recently as in December 2015 from Thailand after spotting his presence in a cannabis enthusiast forum. However, in the midst of the arrest drama, he claimed that he had actually wanted to turn himself in to the authorities. He awaits extradition procedures to the US.

Though the original Silkroad is no longer present in the dark web, numerous other black marketplaces have sprung up instead and have continued to sell items that were banned on Silkroad, including stolen data and guns.

Dangerous Weapons Make their Way Out Of the Dark Web

After the shutdown of Silkroad, year 2015 saw the disappearance of dangerous weapons from the Dark Web. The largest black marketplaces, (after Silkroad) Evolution and Agora had listed these kinds of weapons before they stopped operations in the months of March 2015 and August 2015, respectively. Whereas Evolution was not to be seen after an apparent scam, Agora went on a self-declared sabbatical and is yet to come back.

Agora was forced to stop selling guns fearing presence of decoy undercover agents posing as sellers. Other dangerous weapons have since started disappearing from the dark web marketplaces.

The Good Side

Amidst all the negatives about the dark web and Silkroad that made news in the past, there was also some good that emerged out of the use of the Tor anonymous software in 2015. The fact that dark web offered space for a wide range of useful applications was acknowledged when the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) formally labeled the .onion domain in the month of September last year. Both these bodies have recognized the legitimate uses of Tor. This input was provided by Runa Sandvik who is a security researcher at a company responsible for maintenance of the Tor software.

Additional accolades came in Tor’s way when a large amount of data was provided by a hacker using the “SecureDrop” facility of Tor. This application helps sending a large amount of documents to journalists using the Tor anonymity network.

Tor Offers No Foolproof Anonymity

Tor
Some more recent incidents involving dark web only went on to reveal that all is not foolproof in the dark web. According to the court, university-based research scientists at the SEI of Carnegie Mellon University had provided identities of dark web users (including Silkroad) to the FBI. Members of the Tor Project also alleged that the FBI paid close to $1 million to the university for the information.

This hacked information provided has been useful in at least two cases, it is claimed. The arrests of an alleged Silkroad 2.0 staff member and that of an alleged pedophile. The hacking of the data also led to the arrest of a couple of Irish drug dealers on dark web. They were sent to prison in December 2015. The SEI is suspected to have attacked Tor last year because of a cancelled conference on the topic. However, the fact that hacking of the Tor software is possible has led to the expectation that many more cases will see the light of day this year.

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Major Players Of Silk Road

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3 Guide <<

The latest update from the 2013 collapse of the Silk Road dark web market sees a 54-yr. old Canadian man by the name of Roger Thomas Clark detained in a Thai jail awaiting extradition to the United States. This most recent development follows the bringing-to-justice arc of one of the most interesting cyber-crime stories of our time.

Today we’ll take a look back, in touching on the Silk Road story, and the brains behind the world’s one-time largest drug market – and see where they are now, too.

Silk Road

Silk Road shot to fame in June of 2011 after a Gawker published an article covering a very basic account of how the online market operated. The site had, in fact, been operating for six months already, coming online in January of the same year.

drug-943759_1920The website offered a place online where you could buy and sell anything you pleased – including illegal products and services – all without compromising your identity. The site was accessed through the anonymity browser Tor, and goods exchanges were purchased via the Bitcoin cryptocurrency.

The site was in operation up until October of 2013, when the website originator was arrested. A new Silk Road 2.0 sprung up in its place run by many of the same team as the original marketplace, but that site was subsequently shut down and its operator too arrested.

According to tracked articles from various news sites there have been at least 138 arrests made in association with Silk Road. This includes buyers, sellers, staff and operators. Various other darknet markets such as Utopia, Agora, Evolution and Sheep have seen a similar pattern of law enforcement targeting, although not to the same degree (yet) as Silk Road.

Dread Pirate Roberts

The notorious “kingpin” behind the Silk Road marketplace, Ross Ulbricht, aka Dread Pirate Roberts, currently sits patiently in a jail cell plotting his next appeal.

Ulbricht was arrested in San Francisco in October 2013, following a huge undercover investigation that was aimed squarely are dismantling the online marketplace. His trial in January 2014 took almost a month to complete, with a jury finding him guilty on all charges, subsequently rewarding him with life in jail. The multiple charges included money laundering, narcotics trafficking, and computer hacking.

But as far as underworld figures go, he’s not exactly the person you’d think him to be. He’s a whip smart young guy with a passion for knowledge – studying physics and chemical engineering, ending up in research science. From there he then switched paths, focusing on libertarianism and free economic theory.

The Silk Road idea was dreamed up to escape the boundaries that exist in real-world transactions. He coded up the initial website based on his own libertarianism ideals and the rest, as they say, is history.

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Variety Jones

Variety Jones has been the latest man to fall from grace in the collapse of Silk Road. Roger Thomas Clark has been indicted by the US Department of Justice, accused of similar charges as Ulbricht, including narcotics trafficking and conspiracy to aid and abet hacking. He also faces up to life in jail for his alleged offences.

Clark has been living a low-key life on the island of Koh Chang up until this point.

Clark allegedly met Ulbricht through the site, when, as Variety Jones, he became a trusted marijuana seed seller. He was also very bright, and was quick to inform Ulbricht of a possible security flaw in the website, which sparked their initial friendship.

From here, Ulbricht regularly chatted to Clark, who in turn acted as a sort of mentor for the young man with the flourishing business. He ended up performing many functions across the business as the pair’s friendship deepened, and at several points in time there were payments given as compensation for services rendered for the business.

It appears that Clark had been supplying marijuana seeds since before the time of Silk Road’s launch and was involved in IT, although not much more information is yet available on his background.

Smedley

A third key player in the Silk Road story goes by the name of Smedley. Smedley came on board the Silk Road project in January of 2012, when the popularity of the online marketplace was sky-rocketing. It appeared that Smedley was a brilliant coder, tackling technical problems all over the site.

Logs from the site servers show a dream environment envisaged by Dread Pirate Roberts, Variety Jones, and Smedley. This environment was structured to turn Silk Road into a bundled services provider for the deep web, much like Google is on the clear net. Smedley had already half-completed some of the elements necessary to turn all their dreams into realities.

We don’t yet know – and may never know – who Smedley, in fact, is.

We can be quite sure though, that law enforcement will continue to target those people responsible for starting and running darknet markets – and that the penalties are staggeringly steep.

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New Charges Filed Against Silk Road’s “Variety Jones”

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3 Guide <<

And so, the Silk Road saga continues.

More than two years after Ross Ulbricht, aka Dread Pirate Roberts, was arrested in an unsuspecting San Francisco library for his role behind the Silk Road dark web marketplace, another alleged major player in the story has been charged. (Ulbricht has subsequently been sentenced to life in prison.)

police handcop

Variety Jones, a figure that emerged during Ross Ulbricht’s trial, was charged a few short weeks ago with conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit narcotics trafficking. These charges carry maximum terms of 20 years and life, respectively.

New charges added to the criminal complaint by the US Department of Justice on December 18th include narcotics trafficking, narcotics distribution via the internet, conspiracy to distribute fraudulent ID documents, and conspiracy to aid and abet hacking. It is unclear just how many criminal charges in total will be laid against Variety Jones in regards to his part in the Silk Road marketplace.

The man that the Department of Justice alleges is Variety Jones is a 54-yr. old Canadian by the name of Roger Thomas Clark. Clark was arrested in Thailand on December 3rd, where he has been suspected of living for the past few years on the picturesque island of Koh Chang.

Clark is now sitting in a Thai jail cell attempting to fight extradition charges, according to his lawyer.

But how were authorities lead to Clark? And how does Variety Jones fit into the picture?

During Ulbricht’s trial, chat logs and Ulbricht’s journal were uncovered that pointed to a figure – Variety Jones and his various pseudonyms – as a key player in the Silk Road empire. Variety Jones emerged as a firmly entrenched business mentor to Ulbricht, and even suggested his Dread Pirate Roberts name.

The pair met through the Silk Road marketplace, where Variety Jones was a well-respected marijuana seed dealer. In late 2011, Variety Jones uncovered a flaw in the marketplace and immediately informed Ulbricht. Conversations lead to a significant server configuration change, and the relationship was established.

From there, the two became close, with Variety Jones making various business suggestions regarding the marketplace and its future. Jones was even the first person to suggest that Ulbricht “make a hit” on someone – which ultimately failed due to the hitman actually being a corrupt law enforcement officer trying to bring about the downfall of both Ulbricht and Silk Road.

Ulbricht and Variety Jones plotted to turn Silk Road into a “Google-like” structure, with encrypted web mail, a credit union, and Bitcoin exchange. This project was not to come to fruition.

That corrupt law enforcement officer, along with other efforts, ended up being the downfall of Silk Road and ultimately Ulbricht himself. After identifying Variety Jones as a key player during the trial, both the internet (via user La Moustache), and presumably law enforcement, went to work trying to identify the mysterious figure behind the Variety Jones name.

Efforts via a combination of studying collapsed Mt. Gox exchange user databases, Bitcoin blockchain records, investigative journalism, and possibly even good old fashioned hacking, uncovered a trail leading back to Thailand and the 54-yr. old Roger Thomas Clark.

Variety Jones, it seemed, had been involved in selling marijuana seeds for some time. His business wasn’t simply established when Silk Road came online. He was linked to forum posts in 2006 on a popular site for seed sellers, and then travelled in 2008 to the island of Koh Chang to source a very particular strain of marijuana seed. In later years he continued posting on various marijuana forums, even supposedly currently making posts from his Thai jail cell via a secret hidden mobile phone.

An early adopter of selling via the dark web marketplace, Variety Jones was conducting business in Bitcoin since the early days of its appearance. It appears he was a key figure in growing the Silk Road marketplace and acted as a mentor to Ulbricht.

For now, Clark is awaiting his fate, still sitting in an undesirable Thai cell packed with other prisoners. Ulbricht is in jail attempting to appeal his convictions. A third major figure behind Silk Road, Smedley, the website’s key coder, remains a mystery for now.

thailand BoatIt is likely that Clark will be extradited to the United States from Thailand to face all charges laid against him. It will be interesting to see how the trial plays out, especially considering the sentencing previously applied to Ulbricht. Silk Road and its creators have fallen from grace, and it appears the deep web isn’t as anonymous as we’d like it to be.

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