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.
One such puzzle, not only for the LE necessarily, but also for those nostalgic Silkroad users, is the fact that at one point the Silkroad creator actually asked help and offered a considerable reward to recover his lost bitcoins – 40,000 of them!
As it happens and according to a pair of investigators, one known by a mysterious nickname “imposter” and the other by a slightly less dramatic name, Gwern Branwen – they may have stumbled upon a forum account that presumably belonged to Silkroad founder, Ross Ulbricht. Gwern Branwen who is a moderator of the /r/darknetmarkets subreddit claims that the account named kohlanta on Bitcoin Talk forums IS the infamous Ulbricht himself.
According to them, it was imposter who was working on researching the connection between the Silkroad creator, Mr. Ulbricht, and Mt. Gox. Apparently he found “something interesting on the 1MR6pXD address” which refers to a bitcoin address discovered by the pair. They identified a Mt. Gox account which the founder of Silkroad market used for his transactions.
Furthermore, imposter revealed that he came across a long forgotten forum thread from August 2012 in which certain kohlanta claimed he was the owner of the above mentioned bitcoin address. Kohlanta apparently had some issues with his bitcoins so he asked for help and offered a reward in BTC to a person that manages to recover the lost 40,000 bitcoins.
The exact post from kohlanta reads: “If you look it up in the blockchain, you can see that currently it contains 44,914.031337 BTC. As you can see, the address is present in the wallet, and the blockchain is up to date, yet the balance reads zero. 100 btc to anyone who can help me solve this problem. Thanks!”
Naturally, the solution was found in a jiffy and the helper received his 100BTC reward. Apparently, all he was supposed to do is run “bitcoind -rescan” command which would make his Bitcoin client synchronize with the blockchain and voila!
On a side note, at the time this conversation took place, one bitcoin was worth about 10 bucks, which brought the helper about a thousand dollar prize.
Apparently, the thread continued with someone noticing the irony that someone can actually own such a huge amount of bitcoins, and not be able to manage their Bitcoin software.
This, however, was not an isolated case – kohlanta offered a bitcoin reward for technical issues he had again on at least two occasions – once in January 2013 when he needed help with Bitcoin software again and the second time in March when he had some PHP issues.
To support their case that kohlanta is actually Silkroad founder Ross Ulbricht’s account, the pair of investigators also pointed out that Ko Lanta is actually a huge tourist attraction in Thailand, and Ulbricht’s visit to Thailand was well documented in his journal.
In the light of this revelation, it sounds quite viable that kohlanta was actually the Silkroad creator, Ross Ulbricht, himself. After all, he did mention on multiple occasions in his journal how he learned and mastered coding along the way, while working and maintaining the Silkroad. This goes to show that perhaps there were people who helped developing the Silkroad marketplace without being aware of it!
Just a reminder, Ross Ulbricht was arrested in a public library in San Francisco, on 1st October 2013. He had his laptop with him and the agents immediately took incriminating snapshots of his screen. Agent Chris Tarbell showed him the warrant for his arrest.
He was accused of money laundering, conspiracy to traffic illicit drugs, computer hacking, even ordering murders. His trial was extremely well publicized, but eventually he was sentenced to a lifetime in prison without parole on May 29, 2015.
Prior to his arrest, Silkroad had become a recognizable brand on the Dark Web. It was the first, the largest and definitely the most popular market at the time. However, following his arrest and shutting down the Silkroad marketplace, many other markets started a race to for the lead place on the Dark Web. Many have even named their market based on Silkroad brand. According to the most recent accounts, AlphaBay marketplace is currently considered the largest community on the Dark Web.
As for Mr. Ulbricht, only 6 months into his sentence, Silkroad brand is still strong and inspires nostalgia among its former users; many of them are still looking for more digital traces of Silkroad creator, Ross Ulbricht.