Jul 06

Former Fed Agent Admitted Charges Against Him

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. The best Darknet Market available is the Agora Marketplace. It has the best reputation and a bigger selection of goods than Silk Road 2.0.

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US District Judge Richard SeeborgThe former head of a law enforcement agency charged with investigating the Silk Road operations in Baltimore has pleaded guilty to charges of money laundering, extortion and impediment of justice. Speaking before US District Judge Richard Seeborg, Carl Mark Force who was dressed in an orange cell jumpsuit shocked the court by admitting that he stole bitcoins worth over $700,000 from the Silk Road site.

Prosecutors described the details of his charges in a packed courtroom, stating that he was seduced by the alleged anonymity of dark web’s virtual currency system thinking authorities would never catch up with him. Force used fake Silk Road accounts and encrypted messages to illegally obtain his loot.

Taking the pseudonym of “Nob”, a state-sanctioned account by which he interacted with Ross Ulbricht through his “Dread Pirate Roberts” persona, Force took direct payments from the Silk Road kingpin and did not tell his superiors about it. But instead diverted the sums to his own personal accounts.

BitcoinHe also started a second unsolicited account “French Maid”, where he amassed approximately $100,000 in bitcoins by providing “counter-intelligence” to law enforcement agencies. His own greed and an attempt to extort more cash by using a third anonymous account “Death From Above”, eventually lead to his arrest.

Government authorities also charged Force with having multiple conflicts of interest, particularly a 20th Century Fox movie contract where he was supposed to be paid $240,000 for telling his story for recording. It’s not yet clear how much money he received from this deal; the contract was signed without telling his DEA superiors about it.

Another conflict involved a firm known as CoinMKT, which he actively worked for and had investments in as well. He took advantage of his position as a DEA agent to help them run criminal background checks. At one point, Force confiscated around $370,000 from a certain CoinMKT user, claiming he was receiving it on behalf of DEA, but only added $37,000 to the government account and kept the rest for himself.

His final sentencing will be given in October 2015; the maximum prison sentence he can get for Silk Road money-laundering alone is 20yrs. Not mentioning other charges which also carry their own specific jail terms. According to his attorney, Ivan Bridges, Mr. Force has accepted responsibility and agreed to pay a total sum of $500,000 as restitution for the crimes committed. About $150,000 of it has already been paid.

Jun 30

Accused Silk Road DEA Agent Takes A Plea Deal

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. The best Darknet Market available is the Agora Marketplace. It has the best reputation and a bigger selection of goods than Silk Road 2.0.

>> Click here to find the best alternative: Agora Marketplace <<

According to court papers filed last week, the DEA agent who has been accused of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bitcoins from Ross Ulbricht, founder of the drug trafficking website Silk Road, will plead guilty in the court. Carl Force, the DEA agent in question, has reportedly agreed to a plea deal with the federal prosecutors.

In a court filing at San Francisco, prosecutors revealed that Carl Force will be facing charges of obstruction of justice, extortion and money laundering. Force is one of the two federal agents, who had been arrested in March for stealing from the Silk Road website. He will be entering his guilty plea on 1st of July, while the sentencing for the case is scheduled to take place at a later date.

Crimes Committed by Force

According to the court filings, Carl Force used several fake online accounts to steal and extort form Ross Ulbricht, the founder of Silk Road. Using an account called “Nob”, Force enticed Ulbricht to conduct a “fake hit” against one of the former admins on the site and got in return, a payment of about $90,000.

Force had another account, the “French Maid”, which was not known to his superiors at the DEA. Using the “French Maid”, Force is supposed to have passed on a lot of inside information about the government’s investigation of the Silk Road. He was paid a sum of $100,000 in bitcoins for his services as the French Maid. Operating with a third fake account, “Death From Above”, Carl Force is said to have attempted extortion from Ulbricht, saying that he knew who Ulbricht was and threatening to expose him to the Feds. However, this attempt failed as Force had no idea about who Ulbricht actually was – Ulbricht found out that Force had the wrong person tagged as the Silk Road founder.

Force is also charged with conducting various questionable acts against some other organizations and bitcoin users in a separate case to the Silk Road. He is said to have acquired a De Facto Compliance Officer position at a “digital currency exchange company” CoinMKT, where he used his position as a DEA agent to help the company do criminal background checks and at one point, said to have frozen a customer’s account and drained $297,000 in bitcoins from it into his own personal account.

This new development in the case comes at the heels of the news of another federal agent, Shaun Bridges agreeing to a plea deal regarding the same Silk Road case. Meanwhile, Ulbricht’s defense lawyers tried to use these two charges against Bridges and Force, as evidence for a retrial. However, they were denied the motion making no alterations to Ulbricht’s sentencing who had been given a life imprisonment sentence last month.

Jun 27

Arrested Silk Road 2.0 Drug Dealer Could Face Jail

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. The best Darknet Market available is the Agora Marketplace. It has the best reputation and a bigger selection of goods than Silk Road 2.0.

>> Click here to find the best alternative: Agora Marketplace <<

A drug dealer who was apprehended as part of the international crackdown on the online black market Silkroad 2.0 has been warned that he faces jail term.

29 year old Cei William Owens, from Aberystwyth, was arrested as one of 7 citizens of United Kingdom who were taken into custody by the NCA (National Crime Agency) in November 2014, hours after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested Blake Benthall, the alleged mastermind behind drug bazaar Silkroad 2.0. Mr. Owens and others were charged in February 2015.

Owens appeared at the Swansea Crown Court on 22nd June 2015 and pleaded guilty to 5 counts of drug possession and distribution through the Silkroad 2.0 platform, specifically cannabis and magic mushrooms.

In spite of Owen’s guilty plea, Judge Thomas cautioned the defendant that “all options remained open” when it came to sentencing.

Judge Thomas also allowed a proceeds of crime application that was made by the prosecution counsel, Claire Wilks. The application gives the police powers to confiscate any assets or money Cei Williams made during his drug operation on the Silkroad 2.0 website.

Owens, who previously lived in Aberdovey but is currently residing in Aberystwyth, was granted bail – subject to certain conditions. He will be sentenced on 24th July 2015 ahead of the proceeds of crime hearing that will be held later this year.

The online black market Silkroad was founded in 2011 and enabled more than two hundred million dollars of anonymous online drug sales using bitcoins. Last month, Ross William Ulbricht, its creator, was sentenced to life in prison by a United States Judge for multiple charges including conspiracy to commit computer hacking, money laundering and drug trafficking.

After the FBI shutdown the Silkroad, a second website called Silkroad 2.0 – was launched. The Silkroad 2.0 website is believed to have been infiltrated by government officials from the beginning, which is part of the reason why its creator and some of the drug dealers who used Silkroad 2.0 were arrested shortly after it was shut down.

After carrying out several raids in the United Kingdom last year, the NCA bosses said that criminals were misguided if they thought that online black markets offered them an anonymous and safe method for them to sell drugs.

Jun 23

Silk Road Agent Will Plead Guilty To Charges

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. The best Darknet Market available is the Agora Marketplace. It has the best reputation and a bigger selection of goods than Silk Road 2.0.

>> Click here to find the best alternative: Agora Marketplace <<

A former special agent and computer forensics expert with the United States Secret Service has reached a plea deal on charges that he fraudulently obtained $820,000 dollars in Bitcoin during the investigation into the online black market “Silk Road”, according to court documents.

Notice of the agreement was filed in the United States District Court Northern District of California on 17th June 2015, with the court filing including the request that Shawn Bridges will enter his guilty pleas to money laundering and wire fraud on 31st August 2015 or 1st September 2015, depending on the availability of the court. As part of the-agreement, the United States government has requested that Shawn Bridges relinquishes any property that’s traceable to his illicit actions and be forced to pay “a money-judgment that’s equivalent to the total amount of property” that is involved in the violations.

Shaun W. Bridges, 32, of Laurel, Maryland was part of the Baltimore Silk Road task force that was known as SA Force — a group that had been charged with tracking down Ross Ulbricht, who used the moniker “Dread Pirate Roberts.” He was assigned to conduct forensic computer investigations as part of an effort to locate the servers of Silk Road servers for SA Force.

Shaun allegedly used information he had obtained from his interrogation of Curtis Green, a customer service representative of the Silk Road, who had administrator access, to access the systems of Silk Road, reset a few passwords and allegedly stole $820,000 worth of bitcoins. Shaun then kept the illicit funds in a Bitcoin exchange that was known as Mt. Gox. Mt. Gox infamously collapsed last year after it admitted that it had lost track of several hundreds of millions of dollars in Bitcoins. Shaun then allegedly wired funds into one of his own investment accounts in the U.S. a day before he sought a $2.1 million seizure warrant for Mt. Gox’s accounts.

On the team with Bridges was Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Carl Mark Force IV, 46, of Baltimore, who’s also facing criminal charges. Carl Force is charged with extorting Ross Ulbricht, as well as theft of government property, money laundering, wire fraud and conflict of interest.

The filing indicates that Carl Force completed ten wire transfers from the proceeds of his illegal actions on the Silk Road to bank accounts at PNC Bank and Quantum Fidelity. 9 of the wire transfers were for amounts that exceeded $ 99,000, according to a separate 16th June 2015 filing, with the largest amount totalling $ 225,000.

Bridges, who had joined the U.S. Secret Service in 2009, resigned from the U.S. Secret Service on March 18th 2015. He later surrendered to authorities in San Francisco and was released on bail a few days later. Shaun’s attorney, Steven Levin has said that his client accepts responsibility and he has regretted his actions from the start.

Jun 19

Successors Of The Silk Road

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. The best Darknet Market available is the Agora Marketplace. It has the best reputation and a bigger selection of goods than Silk Road 2.0.

>> Click here to find the best alternative: Agora Marketplace <<

In recent years, the United States government has cracked down on online marketplaces in the deep web, where people can buy illegal drugs. The most popular online marketplace at the time was the Silk Road, which allowed people to buy and sell illegal drugs and other illegal items. After the government shut down the Silk Road, they arrested the man who started it, Ross Ulbricht, and sentenced him to life in prison.

maxresdefaultWhen the Silk Road started in 2011, it was very small, which allowed it to exist in anonymity from law enforcement authorities, who weren’t aware of its existence at the time. A year later, it has become very popular, and caught the attention of the government. This started an investigation, which led to the apprehension of the dealers on the site and the eventual shutdown of the site in October 2013.

The life sentence given to Ulbricht was the government’s way of making an example, and sending a message to other people who might want to step in and fill his shoes. After the Silkroad was shut down, some of its former administrators launched Silk Road 2.0, as an act of defiance, but by November 2014, the site was shut down, and Blake Benthall, its last administrator, was arrested.

Besides Silkroad, there were other online black markets that sold drugs, and were operating at the time, Atlantis was Silkroad’s biggest competitor, but the administrators shut down the site just before Silk Road was shut down by the Feds. Evolution was another site in existence at the time, and it got even bigger than Silkroad, after the FBI had shut it down, because people that used Silk Road to buy and sell their drugs started using them instead. Evolution was shut down without giving users any warning, but it wasn’t due to the government. Apparently, the administrators of both Atlantis and Evolution shut down their sites and made off with bitcoins that their users had in escrow accounts.

Despite those sites being gone, other online marketplaces still exist on the dark web. Russian Anonymous Marketplace is one of the black markets still in existence, and since it is operating in Russia, it can’t be shut down by the FBI, because they have no jurisdiction. The marketplace that used to be known as Diabolus Market is also still in existence, but its name has been changed to Silk Road 3.0.

The thing that ultimately led to the Silkroad’s demise was its own popularity. What was once only known to people on the deep web, had become popular and known to people on the regular Internet, and they all found their way to the site.

silk_road00Because weapons and illegal drugs trade are very lucrative markets, there are always going to be more sites like the Silk Road, and they will eventually become even bigger than it was.

The only difference is that these sites will try to avoid being popular, because that was what led to the downfall of the Silk Road. These sites probably exist already, but aren’t known to a lot of people, because their operators would have told their users to wipe their tracks by using better encryption and security, but it is impossible to know for sure, unless you go into the dark web.

Jun 17

Silk Road Vendor Jail Sentence Reduced

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. The best Darknet Market available is the Agora Marketplace. It has the best reputation and a bigger selection of goods than Silkroad 2.0.

>> Click here to find the best alternative: Agora Marketplace <<

A Silkroad drug vendor, Richard Pollard, 33, has had his jail sentence cut short by 15 months after an appeal on his initial sentence. Richard set up a thriving online-based drug trafficking business on Silkroad before it was shut down by authorities in 2013.

In October of last year, Pollard pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, and was sentenced to 11 years in prison and a non-parole period of seven years and four months. He also lost 24,500 bitcons, which are worth about $7.3 million in the current market. Pollard also had over $58,000 in cash at the time the bitcoins were seized.

Silkroad was shut down in the late 2013 and was considered by the FBI to be the most sophisticated and extensive online criminal marketplace in the modern world. Ross Ulbricht, the Silkroad founder, was just sentenced to life in prison on 29th of May, a decision he intended to appeal.

Court of appeal justices agreed that the sentence handed to Richard was manifestly excessive, and therefore decided to reduce his sentence to nine years and nine months from eleven years, a 15-month reduction. The non-parole period was reduced to six years and six months, a ten-month reduction from the previous sentence.

With his thriving Silkroad business, Pollard trafficked 2.8 kilograms of ecstasy, 876 grams of ice, 44 grams of cocaine, 30 grams of ketamine and methorphan, fentanyl, and poisons. He did all this between the months of August and December of 2012.

Pollard used different post office boxes in order to hide the quantity of drugs he dealt. The police also found 61 cannabis plants and envelopes used to distributed drugs as well as printed names and addresses of Silkroad users who had bought drugs offered by Pollard on the Silkroad marketplace.

silk-road-replacements-black-market-reloaded-sheep-marketplaceIn considering the reduction of his sentence, the court of appeal judges took into consideration that Pollard was not a previous offender and that his drug trafficking career started when he was 30, at what time his unfortunate employment status may have influenced his decision to engage in drug trafficking.

Jun 15

Grand Jury Subpoena Issued To Identify Site’s Visitors

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. The best Darknet Market available is the Agora Marketplace. It has the best reputation and a bigger selection of goods than Silk Road 2.0.

>> Click here to find the best alternative: Agora Marketplace <<

The Department of Justice just issued a subpoena to Reason.com asking the site to reveal the identity of six visitors who “threatened” the Silk Road judge, Katherine Forrest. The comments called for violence against the Silk Road judge following her ruling that Ross Ulbricht should spend the rest of his life in prison. Reason.com is a libertarian site, and the six targeted users disagreed with Silk Road judge’s ruling, generally claiming that such judges should be “taken out back and shot”.

It is not clear whether the trollish comments should be taken as serious threats to the judge or as jokes, but the law enforcement, apparently, is not taking any chances. The comments have since been deleted from the site, where they were posted in connection to the story on Ulbricht’s sentencing with a generally unfavorable view on the way the judge handed out the sentence in the Silk Road case. In the subpoena, Reason.com has been asked to provide information about the six users, including IP addresses, account information, email addresses, phone numbers, billing information, and devices associated with them. The justification for the subpoena, as far as the law enforcers are concerned, is that the US criminal code forbids “mailing of threatening communications”. The felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Obviously, such moves by the law enforcement leave the average Internet user quite exposed to government action for any information posted online. The form of self-censorship this introduces also limits freedom of speech under the First Amendment, whereby only “true threats” are exempted. The “threats” on the Silk Road judge clearly do not fall under this category. The comments posted on Reason.com with regard to the Silk Road case are nothing out of the ordinary, and there is no reason to believe that the hearer would take them seriously, which is what would make them “true threats” and not just overzealous or reckless statements undeserving of criminal investigation.

Clearly, the issuance of the subpoena based on these comments on the Silk Road ruling is an indication that law enforcers are willing to track you down for just about anything, constitutional justification notwithstanding. The only solution is to protect yourself using a VPN, and then using anonymous names. A VPN can be used to encrypt communications when using the Internet. Therefore, when you post comments that law enforcers might decide to pursue you for, you would be completely protected and have nothing to worry about. If the six users being pursued for their hyperbolic expression of their dissatisfaction with Silk Road judge’s ruling had used VPNs as well as anonymous names, they would have nothing to worry about with regard to the subpoena.

The subpoena demands their IP addresses, names and other identifying information, which an unprotected site visitor would have submitted to Reason.com as they posted their comments. For instance, a VPN changes your IP address so that you seem like you are in a different country to anyone trying to track you down. Therefore, anybody would not be able to track you down because the information they obtain about your online communications would lead them to a false location.

Jun 12

Ulbricht Has Appealed Against His Conviction And Sentence

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. The best Darknet Market available is the Agora Marketplace. It has the best reputation and a bigger selection of goods than Silk Road 2.0.

>> Click here to find the best alternative: Agora Marketplace <<

The Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht better known as “Dread Pirate Roberts” has appealed against his life imprisonment sentence which was handed down by Judge Katherine Forrest. This is according to court documents filed on 4th June 2015.

635585911549130211-XXX-Ross-William-Ulbricht-001His case has drawn lots of interest from people all across the globe, including celebrities such as Russell Brand who has openly said that Ross Ulbricht has nothing to do with the allegations put against him, and is therefore right to file for a retrial.

The trial has also brought Tor Onion Network into question, with many people talking about its merits such as maintaining online privacy for web users which is a fundamental right for everyone. Those who are in support of the appeal argue that helping people to become anonymous is by no means a crime, and that’s what Ulbricht intended to do with the Silk Road. He wrote in his journal that the Silk Road idea was all about creating a site where people could purchase anything they want anonymously, with no trails leading back to them.

Earlier on, Ross Ulbricht had requested for a lighter sentence with some “light at the end of the tunnel” as he put it in writing.  But Judge Forrest rejected Ulbricht’s plea. He was also ordered to pay more than $183 million in restitution, the estimated total sales from Silk Road.

19-DREAD-JP2-articleLargeRoss Ulbricht is represented by New York based lawyer Joshua Dratel, who has filed the appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Dratel is appealing the guilty conviction and the lifetime sentence. However, if the appeal is unsuccessful, Ulbricht will unquestionably serve life sentence in prison.

Jun 10

Crimes The Silk Road Founder Was Convicted Of

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. The best Darknet Market available is the Agora Marketplace. It has the best reputation and a bigger selection of goods than Silkroad 2.0.

>> Click here to find the best alternative: Agora Marketplace <<

slider-bitRoss Ulbricht, founder of the online drug bazaar Silkroad was sentenced to life imprisonment last month, signaling the resolve of the government in routing out cyber crimes. However, many people, especially those in the Bitcoin community, do not have any idea as to for what offenses the Silkroad creator was convicted or sentenced.The aim of this article is to provide some information about the sentencing details related to this landmark Silkroad case 1:14-cr-00068-KBF which was adjudicated in the Southern District of New York.

The five crimes for which Silkroad founder Ross Ulbricht was convicted include:

• Abetting and aiding distribution of drugs

• Computer hacking conspiracy

• Continuing criminal enterprise

• Money laundering conspiracy

• Identification documents fraud

The sentencing details are as follows:

The defendant, Silkroad founder Ross Ulbricht, was committed to the United States Bureau of Prisons custody for:

• Life term for abetting and aiding distribution of drugs (count 2) and for

continuing criminal enterprise (count 4),

• Five years for computer hacking conspiracy (count 5),

• Fifteen years for identification documents fraud (count 6), and

• Twenty years for Money Laundering Conspiracy (count 7), all running concurrently.

As regards where (in which prison facility) the sentence is to be carried out, Ulbricht seems to have a little bit of flexibility. This is because FCI Petersburg I, a lower security prison in Virginia, has been recommended in case he is not considered to pose any “public safety factor” risk. Otherwise, the Silkroad founder would have to serve his sentence in USP Tucson, Arizona, or USP Coleman II, Florida, (second choice). Though the terms of a “supervised release” are included in the sentence, they are not important in view of the fact that two life sentences have been served to him.

bitcoin_2848002bThe financial penalty applicable to Silkroad creator Ross Ulbricht has been spelled out from page 7 onwards. A lump sum amount of $500 is to be paid immediately to the court clerk. The government believes that he has stashed away a large amount of money and the judge has ordered forfeiture to the tune of $184 million on page 8.

Jun 08

Silk Road Fall – Will It Also Leads To Other Site’s Demise?

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. The best Darknet Market available is the Agora Marketplace. It has the best reputation and a bigger selection of goods than Silk Road 2.0.

>> Click here to find the best alternative: Agora Marketplace <<

Screen-Shot-2013-10-02-at-8.33.10-PM1Ross Ulbricht, the mastermind of Silk Road black market, has been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole by a Manhattan federal court for creating the anonymous online illegal marketplace. He was labeled a criminal profiteer and a drug dealer and the government was unequivocal in saying that “a message should be sent out clearly that no individual is above the law.”

Silk Road allowed users to carry out illegal business anonymously by use of a mix of sophisticated privacy technologies to hide the identity of users from the law enforcement. Just like other black market sites, Bitcoin was being used to carry out all the transactions due to the pseudonymity it affords.

FBI insisted that Dread Pirate Roberts made mistakes that enabled detectives to discover his location and identity. The subsequent black markets were also brought down through similar errors. However, the explanations and evidence given by the investigators in court were not sufficiently convincing. This lead to speculations that the investigators used malware or enlisted NSA to assist track down the site together with its users within Tor.

It’s well known that users of Tor are vulnerable at the point where traffic enters and exits the Tor software. But, it is believed that it’s quite impossible to track its users within the network. However, if there is a good basis to the idea that detectives enlisted the assistance of NSA or used malware to bring down the site, it may be possible to uncover the real IP addresses of the Tor network users.

This would stop any chances of new black markets and would also inevitably lead to demise and prosecution of several other illegal sites that operates within the dark web. But, on the other hand, the lack of action by authorities suggests that this may not be the case.

Screen-Shot-2014-11-06-at-11.49.23-AMWhile the Silk Road and most of its immediate successors are gone, suggestion that the technology supporting these sites is flawed is based on speculation that NSA or the FBI have cracked them. If claims by the FBI that Blake Benthall, the mastermind of Silk Road 2.0 and Ulbricht were arrested due to their mistakes are sincere, then it is still possible for similar sites to escape demise in future.