First Vendor to Get Busted on Silk Road

Silkroad Vendor “shadh1”

Paul Howard aka “shadh1” was the first ever drug vendor with ties to Silkroad to get caught and sentenced after pleading guilty to a barrage of charges, one of which was drug trafficking.

At the time, Silkroad was touted to be the safest place to conduct drug deals being one of the numerous cryptomarkets that law enforcement found so elusive.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Silk Road 3.0 is BACK ONLINE and open for business. The team did a massive security overhaul on the site to try and make it more secure and anonymous.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3.0 Guide <<

paul-howard-aka-shadh1
Paul Howard Was The First Silk Road Vendor To be Arrested.

Other than being the first arrest of a Silkroad drug dealer since its launch in 2011, this particular case stood out for a number of reasons, some of which were baffling, to say the least.

Silkroad was eventually shut down in 2013 after three rocky years of operation and a bunch of significant arrests.

The Details

According to details that were revealed during the trial, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Services had begun to intercept packages addressed to Howard and his wife’s home address.

In total, 12 mail packages which contained MDMA (better known as ecstasy or simply “e”) were seized by the authorities.

A level of ingenuity had been used to package the drugs as they were cleverly hidden in paraphernalia such as lighters, DVD players, and cards.

Curiously enough, the Silkroad vendor did not notice the thinning inflow of drugs since he kept placing more and more orders on Silkroad as later revealed during the trial.

It was not until the authorities had intercepted a total of 46.9 grams of MDMA that they decided to take the next course of action.

The Bust

australian-federal-police
Australian Federal Police (AFP) first and very successful drug raid of a Silkroad dealer’s house.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) had enough to warrant a sweep of Howard’s home in Brunswick.

In what was the first and very successful drug raid of a Silkroad dealer’s house, the AFP managed to dig up an additional 50 grams of MDMA, 14.5 grams of cocaine and a whopping 989 grams of cannabis.

The drugs were in various stages of packaging as the police stumbled upon several zip-loc bags and scales at the scene.

Some of the drugs had already been packaged into sealed envelopes waiting for shipment.

The police then went on to perform a sweep of his vehicle where they unearthed what appeared to be innocuous sugar cubes that contained a substance which was unidentifiable at the time.

It was only after Howard’s sentencing that substance was identified as LSD. He was not charged with the possession of the drug.

Digital Evidence

The icing on the cake for the AFP was when they stumbled onto some very incriminating evidence on Howard’s phone and computers.

In addition to 148 text messages on his phone which irrevocably bound him to various drug trading activities and had numerous references to Silkroad, the police also found a number of pictures in his computers in which he could be seen handling the drugs.

In what many consider to be a humorous turn of events, his vehicle was also used as evidence against him owing to the fact that his license plate number was the same as his Silkroad moniker, “shadh1.”

Open and Shut Case

The prosecution had a field day cross-examining thousands of incriminating text messages dug up from the Silkroad vendor’s phone, some of which contained explicit information concerning his operations on Silkroad and the volume of drugs he had in possession.

Howard had little choice but to cooperate in the hopes of getting a more lenient sentencing.

He aided the police to search his computer where they managed to dig up a message Howard had posted on Silkroad when he began his illegal dealings.

In a nutshell, the message was a simple bio of who he was and what he did write in a very affable tone.

In addition to importing more than the required marketable quantity of border-controlled drugs into the country, Howard also pleaded guilty to charges of drug trafficking and the possession of over 30 controlled weapons.

Read More

How Silk Road’s Rogue Agents Got Caught

Carl M. Force and Shaun W. Bridges, former federal agents, were charged with money laundering, fraud and related offenses for stealing bitcoins during their investigations into the underground black market Silkroad.

Forty-six-year-old Force, who hails from Baltimore, was working with the DEA as a Special Agent and thirty-two-year-old Bridges from Laurel, Maryland, was working with the Secret Service as a Special Agent when they were both included in the Baltimore Silkroad Task Force for investigating the illegal activities being carried out by the darknet marketplace.

While the charges leveled against Force include stealing of government property, fraud, conflict of interest and money laundering, charges leveled against Bridges are money laundering and wire fraud.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Silk Road 3.0 is BACK ONLINE and open for business. The team did a massive security overhaul on the site to try and make it more secure and anonymous.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3.0 Guide <<

Carl M Force
Carl M Force, aka Nob, aka French Maid, aka Death from Above, aka the DEA agent busted for a host of felonies during his investigation of the Silk Road.

How Was Carl Force Caught

By October 2013, Force had been with the task force team, investigating the Silkroad, for a couple of years. During the time he carefully involved in a number of lucrative bitcoin side projects.

One of his projects was ripping off the Silkroad founder, who operated under the pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts,” of bitcoins.

Force had by then extorted as much as 1,200 bitcoins from the Silkroad founder and opened an account with the Slovenia-based bitcoin exchange Bitstamp to turn the digital currency into cash. This action seems to have sealed his fate.

Force used his undercover name, Eladio Guzman Fuentes, he commonly assumed during investigations as a DEA agent and produced a driver’s license, Social Security card and proof of residence, all connected to the name to open the account.

His documents were passed on to George Frost, Bitstamp’s general counsel, who found out that they were all forged documents.

When Frost confronted Force, he showed his real ID, his badge, and a Baltimore water bill. Though Frost allowed Force to set up an account, he did not feel comfortable with it.

In November, Force made two large withdrawals from Bitstamp, worth $34,000 and $96,000 in bitcoins into his bank account. Suspicious Frost contacted FinCEN.

The officer he talked to at FinCEN was Shaun Bridges, who told him that the case would be referred to the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice.

However, nothing happened. Force kept on transferring his bitcoin assets and even cleared his mortgage payment in full in December 2013.

Six months after the Silkroad founder was arrested, Force withdrew a large sum of $80,000 from Bitstamp in April 2014. Bitstamp employees observed that the IP addresses of Force were connected to Tor.

When asked about this, Force said that he used Tor for the purpose of privacy. In the last week of April 2014, when Force tried to withdraw $200,000 in bitcoins, Frost decided to freeze his account.

Frost then scheduled a meeting with Kathryn Haun, as assistant US attorney in San Francisco. She was the first cryptocurrency coordinator of the Department of Justice.

The meeting was also attended by Tigran Gambaryan, a special agent with IRS. Frost then told them about Force.

Gambaryan, who was aware of the tension between Silkroad investigation teams in New York and Baltimore, sensed that there was something more to the story than just rivalry between the agencies.

However, Haun and Gambaryan were not sure as to whether they should investigate Force’s behavior at all. But then, what made an investigation inevitable was Force’s subsequent action.

He contacted Bitstamp customer service and requested that all his transaction history be deleted.

While Gambaryan wanted to pull out Force’s financial records as well as the latter’s bitcoin activity and match them with transaction records that were already there in the Silkroad database under the government’s custody, Haun started her investigations from Shaun Bridges.

They had a conversation with Bridges through phone on May 6, 2014. His behavior set off alarm bells, and they decided to take Force’s case forward without Bridges’ help.

Gambaryan found out that Force used his undercover account Nob to get Ulbricht’s attention. He told the founder of Silkroad that he was interested in purchasing the website.

Ulbricht quoted $1 billion for the Silkroad site. After a few months, Force informed him that it was not cost-effective for him to do business in quantities below ten kilos.

The Silkroad founder wrote back to him saying that one of his staff would get back to him with the details of a buyer who can deal in large quantities. The buyer was Curtis Green, a Silkroad staffer.

He operated under the name “Flush” and was in charge of Silkroad Forums.

Green signed for a package containing 1 kg of cocaine that Force had arranged to be sent to him. When Green delivered the package to Force, he was arrested by a dozen of agents.

Green did a short stint in jail for cocaine possession, but he was brought out on bail and was questioned by the agents Force and Bridges for about 12 hours.

They asked him to spill out everything he knew about Silkroad, which he did. He even told them the password to his Silkroad account.

Later in the day, huge amounts of bitcoins were transferred to a Number13 account. Sellers on Silkroad also started losing bitcoins from their Silkroad accounts.

By the time the Silkroad founder realized this, as much as 20,000 bitcoins had disappeared.

Ulbricht thought Green was behind this and wanted to teach him a lesson. He turned to “Nob” for help, who was only too keen to oblige.

Initially, the Silkroad founder wanted Green to be beaten up but later on said that he should be executed. Nob demanded $80,000 for the job.

Green staged his own death and Nob got the payment. Force promptly handed over the money to the government.

However, Force had other ideas for getting money from the creator of Silkroad. He sent a message from his new account “Death From Above” to Ulbricht, saying that he was aware of the latter’s involvement in Green’s death. His aim was to get $250,000 from the creator of Silkroad.

Gambaryan found out that “Death From Above” is Force’s another account only because he had left a video footage of himself typing from the same account. Force’s extortion attempt failed as the Silkroad founder refused to pay him. Force then, acting as Nob, got Ross Ulbricht to pay him 400 bitcoins for counterintelligence information from a Justice Department employee Kevin.

Two months later, the Silkroad creator spent another 525 bitcoins. Force mentioned about the first payment in his report to superiors, but not about the second payment. However, a mistake committed by Ross helped Gambaryan to find out that the second payment went to Force’s another bitcoin wallet.

Force created another Silkroad account in the name of “French Maid,” offering information on the government’s investigation into Silkroad for $100,000 in bitcoins. The creator of Silkroad paid once again, and the money went into a personal account of Force.

Haun held a “proffer” session for Force along with Gambaryan. Force admitted to working as “Nob” and taking off bitcoins of the government. However, he acted as though he did it out of a big misunderstanding.

During the session, he also informed that he did not know anything about the accounts “French Maid” and “Death From Above.”

Gambaryan went through the vast Silkroad database once again and confirmed that Force was both “Death from Above” and “French Maid” from the particular version of PGP that he had in his e-mail signatures. Finally, Force was boxed in.

How Was Shaun Bridges Booked

Shaun Bridges
Shaun Bridges stole $820,000 worth of bitcoin and was sentenced to nearly six years in prison.

The investigation of Carl Force led to the apprehension of Shaun Bridges. In early December 2014, when Haun was getting ready to charge Carl Force, Gambaryan came up with a startling discovery.

He found out through Wallet Explorer, a smart Bitcoin block explorer that offers wallet labeling and address grouping service, that the second payment of 525 bitcoins was directly sent by the Silkroad founder (by manually cross-referencing his and Force’s bitcoin transactions) to another account.

This indicated the involvement of yet another person. Gambaryan investigated the matter further and started doubting whether Bridges and Number13 accounts were the same.

Haun and Gambaryan also found out that the stolen bitcoins have been sent to Mt. Gox exchange from the Number13 account. Gambaryan used a mutual legal assistance treaty procedure for accessing the financial records of the Japanese bankruptcy trustee.

The records showed money had been moved to a Fidelity account registered as “Quantum Investments” from the Mt. Gox exchange. Quantum Investments was found to be a company registered by Bridges in his name and home address.

Bridges resigned from his position in the Secret Service on March 15, 2015, and this suggested strongly that the other person involved in stealing the Silkroad founder’s and government’s money was none other than himself.

A proffer session was offered to Bridges also. However, he was unrepentant and arrogant during the session.

Charges were filed against both the Silkroad agents on March 30, 2015. Within one month, Bridges, and a few weeks later, Force, pleaded guilty.

Bridges and Force were sentenced to 71 months and 78 months, respectively, in prison.

While Force is serving his term in a federal prison located near Louisville, Kentucky, Bridges is in the Terre Haute Federal Correctional Institution in Indiana.

Read More

Silk Road’s Creator Legal Defense Filed A New Reply Brief

ross ulbrichtThe Silkroad is back, making headlines once again, with the defense team of Ross Ulbricht filing a reply brief in the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals as part of the appeal filed in January this year.

The reply brief filed questions whether the trial which led to the Silkroad founder’s conviction was fair enough in any manner whatsoever.

Defense counsel Joshua Dratel’s latest reply in response to the brief filed in June by the prosecution states that his client’s conviction does not hold ground as the Silkroad investigation was carried out with the help of a couple of corrupt officials.

In addition, the reply brief refers to a number of abuses by the court that can be considered as discretionary authority.

According to Dratel, this resulted in the gross violation of the Silkroad founder’s rights.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Silk Road 3.0 is BACK ONLINE and open for business.

The team did a massive security overhaul on the site to try and make it more secure and anonymous.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3.0 Guide <<

Ross-William-UlbrichtThe creator of Silkroad, Ross Ulbricht, who operated the website under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts, was apprehended and convicted of operating an online marketplace for drugs, weapons, and several other illegal goods.

Currently, he is in prison, serving a life sentence without parole for operating the Silkroad marketplace.

In addition to requesting the court to vacate all of the convictions against the founder of Silkroad, the reply brief calls for a re-sentencing or conducting a retrial before another district judge.

In the introductory note of the new reply brief submitted on behalf of the defendant and Silkroad founder Ross Ulbricht, it is mentioned that a point-by-point rebuttal of the government’s brief is not required as they either cover undisputed territory (those that deal with basic legal principles), or present sufficiently anticipated arguments that have already been addressed in the initial brief filed by the defense team.

The new reply filing, therefore, focuses on bringing out the weaknesses in the responses of the government by citing specific examples and highlighting critical issues that have not been addressed at all.

Soon after Ulbricht was convicted, Carl Force and Shaun Bridges, the law enforcement officers associated with the investigation of Silkroad, pleaded guilty of committing certain crimes when carrying out their part of the investigation.

Carl Force of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Shaun Bridges from the U.S. Secret Service pleaded guilty to charges of theft, extortion, and misappropriation of bitcoins belonging to Ulbricht and Silkroad leveled against them.

In the new reply brief filed by the defense counsel Dratel, the argument put forward by him is that the two law enforcement officers had played a significant role in investigating the case which resulted in the arrest, conviction, and sentencing of the Silkroad founder.

He also points to the fact that the government suppressed information about the criminal investigation that was being carried out during the course of Ulbricht’s trial.

In addition, the defense counsel says that the information released, collected or discovered since the filing of the initial brief by Ulbricht vitiates any of the government’s arguments about separating the participation of Force and Bridges in the Silkroad investigation.

Further, Dratel says that Katherine Forrest, the judge who presided over the Silkroad and Ulbricht’s trial, illegitimately prevented him from cross-examining some of the witnesses concerning certain technical aspects and disallowed him from presenting two of the defense witnesses.

Apart from the points raised as regards to the shortcomings on the part of Judge Forrest and the government, defense counsel Dratel notes in the brief that the government violated the Silkroad founder’s Fourth Amendment right.

According to him, the government issued unlawful warrants for searching and seizing belongings and data of Ross Ulbricht without mentioning any kind of evidence against him at that point in time.

According to Dratel, as far as the warrants were concerned, there was a lack of Particularity In Application as well as Execution and the Pen Register and the Trap and Trace Orders were not lawful because they cannot be executed without a warrant.

Also, they failed to stick to statutory limitations.

The nature of the sentence given to Ross Ulbricht by Judge Katherine Forrest, among other things, has also been contested by the defense counsel.

He has expressed his opinion that the justification of life sentence without parole that was awarded to Ulbricht refers to different drug overdose deaths that are not in any way related to the Silkroad case at all.

In addition, he points out that the judgment that was handed down to Ross takes into account certain factors for which he was never even charged with.

After the defense team for Silkroad founder Ross Ulbricht launched its appeal for initiating a new trial in January, the last hope for the Silkroad creator to escape a life sentence, the prosecution responded by rebutting each and every argument raised by the defense counsel.

The brief filed by the prosecution was just a rehash of the Silkroad founder’s trial early last year.

The brief also questioned Judge Katherine Forrest’s decisions in favor of the prosecution, which included suppression of defense evidence, admission of prosecution evidence and denial of defense witnesses.

This prompted Ulbricht’s attorneys to call for a mistrial at least five times.

Read More

Lyn Ulbricht Speaks about Other People Involved In Silk Road

Silkroad creator’s mother, Lyn Ulbricht expresses her thoughts on another corruption uncovered in the Silkroad saga for the world to know.

She talks about the controversial fact that there are others who were picked up on their involvement in Silkroad drug charges, though none ended up close to Ross’ sentence which makes the grotesque disparity quite evident.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Silk Road 3.0 is BACK ONLINE and open for business. The team did a massive security overhaul on the site to try and make it more secure and anonymous.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3.0 Guide <<

Lyn Ulbricht Two crooked cops by the name Carl Force, former DEA agent, and former Secret Service agent Shawn Bridges have been accused of stealing Silkroad bitcoins.

Most recently, Bridges is suspected of stealing Silkroad bitcoins once again, and in two more cases.

He was helping himself to $700,000 USD more and another $20,000 in BTC to top the first $800,000 he had already been caught red-handed on during the Silkroad investigation.

What was Silkroad prosecuting attorney Preet Bharara’s response? Despite the explicitly tampered evidence in the hands of corrupt fed agents, Ross Ulbricht remains guilty.

The Barbaric Sentence

Lyn tells how U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest issued a barbaric sentence just because Ross was deemed a political threat by the judge herself.

Isn’t this a bit harsh on a man whose only weapon was a keyboard or computer, considering the grave crimes of murderers and child molesters?

Dread Pirate Roberts and the Silkroad darknet market he created was a triumph of libertarian ideals and technology that the government cannot control.

It’s the blatant truth behind the Silkroad that once existed in the dark web.

However, the judge found Ross Ulbricht’s writings and beliefs to be deeply troubling and highly dangerous.

Lyn and the defense strongly believe that her son was treated and jailed unfairly mainly because he was the creator of the first online black market that ultimately became the largest illicit drug platform.

Three of the notable arrests include leading Silk Road vendor Jan Slomp, biggest cocaine and heroin vendor Steven Sadler, and Silkroad administrator Peter Nash.

They received a 10-year, 5-year, and 17-month sentence respectively.

Moreover, the corrupt agents got 6 and 7 years while Silkroad 2.0’s key player Brian Farrell was given an 8-year prison term.

Now, what about Ulbricht? Charged with money laundering, conspiracy to narcotic trafficking, computer hacking, and murder which was eventually dropped though he was still handed down a life sentence, and without the possibility of parole.

Ulbricht’s supporters have just gotten their speculations confirmed that Ross served as a scapegoat for the failed drug policy of the American government.

His mother states that this convinced her that her son was a political prisoner.

The government wanted to make an example out of him to warn others and deter them from creating criminal sites similar to the Silkroad.

However, the results are otherwise with even more dark web sites that have emerged today which are far bigger than the original Silkroad marketplace.

Corruption in the Silkroad Case

lyn ulbrichtFirst off, Lyn points out that the Silkroad trial was mishandled right from the start.

She questions the Senator of New York’s closure of Silkroad followed by strangely ordering the trial in the state, rather than in California where he was arrested.

Charles Schumer had connections with the legal prosecutor as his own special counsel and the Silkroad judge having been suggested by the senator himself.

Lyn alleges that research done by a professional forensic pathologist concluded that no scientific evidence proves Silkroad drugs caused the alleged deaths.

Lyn expresses how terrible she feels for parents of those who died, but voices out that the courtroom must rely more on facts, evidence, and cross-examine all parties instead of completely focusing on Silkroad founder.

Ross wasn’t allowed to defend himself, and Silkroad witnesses were muzzled as the judge totally refused to hear their side of the Silkroad story.

Nowhere in the law does it state that a harsher punishment is imperative for the first offender in any case.

Also, Shaun Bridges was clearly empowered over the Silkroad site, and evidence manipulation has been proven twice now.

The prosecution has utterly ignored this along with the unabashed mishandling of the Silkroad case.

These actions coming from the government has led many to believe that the US justice system has failed.

Also considering that it relies on digital evidence, pertaining to that which can easily be forged, is one thing that’s actually troubling when looking at future convictions.

Read More

Ex-Silk Road Secret Service Agent Alleged Of Additional Thefts

Shaun Bridges, one of two ex-US feds accused of going rogue during the Silkroad investigation, the other being former DEA agent Carl Force. Both were members of Baltimore Silkroad Task Force who abused their roles and former Silkroad Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges dauntlessly pursued even more alleged corrupt acts linked to the Bitcoin cryptocurrency.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Silk Road 3.0 is BACK ONLINE and open for business. The team did a massive security overhaul on the site to try and make it more secure and anonymous.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3.0 Guide <<

Silkroad Theft

Silkroad TheftFormer Secret Service agent Bridges pleaded guilty in August last year to money laundering and obstruction of justice, in connection with Bitcoin theft during the investigation of the most sought after online black market at the time, the Silkroad.

Upon admitting that he stole approximately 20,000 Silkroad Bitcoins amounting to about $350,000 back then, he was sentenced in the month of December to nearly 6 years in prison. It was between March and May 2013 that he liquidated the digital currency into $820,000 and transferred funds to his personal investment accounts.

Bridges confessed that he stole money from Silkroad underground drug bazaar accounts, and framed someone else for it. The witty frame-up act had led to Silkroad creator and operator, Ross William Ulbricht, to contract a murder for the thief. Ulbricht, aka “Dread Pirate Roberts,” ended up guilty of charges and is currently serving life in prison sentence.

Two-fold Stolen Bitcoin Cases

4Bitcoins have been allegedly stolen by Shaun Bridges in two other different instances. How he managed to do so after having been initially arrested and the fact that he already pled guilty to online dark market Silkroad related charges is an interesting controversy.

Apart from stealing the Silkroad money seized by the government, Bridges is alleged man behind the theft of an estimated $700,000 worth of Bitcoins sourced from a Secret Service account. This occurrence is noted three months after his access was supposed to be blocked.

Unsealed court filings indicated that the Justice Department unraveled last April the possibility of Bridges holding a private cryptographic key. If he had, it would have granted him easy access to a Bitcoin wallet wherein the $700,000 worth of Bitcoins seized by the Silkroad task force was stored.

The department states that they have urged to block his access, but unfortunately was not done by the U.S. Secret Service. Thus, the funds were stolen and something that would have been overlooked if not with the court order to pay a portion of Bitcoin seized back to its claimants.

According to federal prosecutors, the government is running an ongoing investigation of determining if Bridges executed theft of approximately $700,000 on July 28th, only to be followed by more stealing of $20,000 Bitcoins on September 10th of 2015.

It can be noted how the document does not definitively state that the suspected former Silkroad Secret Service agent indeed took the money; however, prosecutors tell of the only individual conclusively known to have access, is no other than Shaun Bridges.

In February, right on the day before he was up to start serving his prison sentence, Bridges’ second arrest was accomplished at his Laurel, Maryland home. Officers found luggage containing a notarized copy of his passport, records for three offshore account, bulletproof vests that were issued by the Secret Service and probably stolen, which altogether appearing to be items for use in an attempt flee the country.

Currently, Bridges is in detention at the Terre Haute, Indiana prison. The Secret Service and his lawyer Steven Levin chose not to comment.

Read More

Battle between Microsoft and the US Gov. Related to Silk Road Emails

The long-running battle between the tech giant Microsoft and the US government is over government’s access to an Irishman’s emails, which are purportedly related to Silkroad investigation. The emails stored in servers on Ireland have become the center of controversy as Gary Davis was accused of being part of the now defunct illegal online drugs black market Silkroad as an administrator.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Silk Road 3.0 is BACK ONLINE and open for business. The team did a massive security overhaul on the site to try and make it more secure and anonymous.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3.0 Guide <<

microsoft-email-battler-silk-roadAccording to the report, the said email account belonged to the 28-year old alleged Silkroad administrator, Gary Davis, from Wicklow, Ireland. The report also noted that the federal investigators filed a warrant in 2013 seeking access to his emails. Currently, he is fighting a legal battle to prevent extradition to the U.S. on charges that he operated as a Silkroad administrator. Though Davis appeared in a court in Dublin recently in this connection, the case has been adjourned to 8th July.

The online drug marketplace Silkroad, which was shut down in 2013 by the law enforcement authorities, operated on the dark web using the hidden service Tor so that users could buy illegal items such as drugs, fake documents, and weapons anonymously. The creator of Silkroad, Ross Ulbricht, has been served a life sentence after he was found guilty of charges including money laundering, conspiracy to drug trafficking, and computer hacking.

Paul Ennis, a researcher at the Center for Innovation, Technology and Organization of the University College Dublin, reportedly said that the U.S. government would not upset an ally like Microsoft or the country Ireland. This was happening only because of the embarrassment caused by Silkroad.

Ddavisavis himself provided further evidence when he tweeted that he feels that the battle between Microsoft and the U.S. government is centered on his emails, linking to the Silkroad case.

The battle between the tech major and the federal government can be traced back to December 2013 when District Court in the U.S. passed a judgment in connection with the Silkroad case, compelling Microsoft to hand over the emails belonging to a person whose nationality was not known but was suspected to be a drug trafficker.

Microsoft promptly handed over the information (not related to content) that had been stored on their servers in the U.S. but refrained from handing over the emails, saying that the federal government did not possess the rights to access content that is stored on servers located outside the U.S.

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in the U.S. is currently considering the case and the privacy advocates and technology companies are eagerly awaiting judgment in the case related to Silkroad investigations. In this connection, it is important to note that other technology companies have filed amicus briefs like Apple, Verizon, AT&T, Amazon and Cisco in support of Microsoft. The ACLU, the Irish government, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have also backed the stance taken by Microsoft.

E. Joshua Rosenkranz, the lawyer representing Microsoft in this case about Silkroad investigation, cited an opinion of the Supreme that was issued in another case that would back up its argument that the U.S. laws are not applicable outside the country unless it has been explicitly provided for by the Congress.

It is expected that the court would give its ruling on the Silkroad related case sometime next month. However, it is also anticipated that the losing side is likely to appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court.

Read More

Re-Trial for Ross Ulbricht Not Looking Good

Silkroad founder, Ross Ulbricht, has been in prison since May 2015 after he was given a double life sentence without the possibility of parole. Ulbricht was charged on many counts, such as money laundering, conspiracy to sell drugs, and for creating and running Silkroad – a dark web site that enables its users to sell and buy drugs. While administrating the Silkroad website, Ulbricht used “Dread Pirate Roberts” as his pseudonym.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Silk Road 3.0 is BACK ONLINE and open for business. The team did a massive security overhaul on the site to try and make it more secure and anonymous.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3.0 Guide <<

images (2)A year on, Ulbricht, his mother Lyn, and his defense team are working on an appeal for a re-trial. Lyn Ulbricht filed an appeal for a re-trial of the case in what she and the defense team believes that the double life sentence given to her son was unjust. The 170-page argument that the defense team presented is Ulbricht’s final hope of escaping a double life sentence that he is now serving at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, NY. They filed the appeal on January 12, this year, and a reply was received from the government on June 17.
Their most important refutation concerns the argument over the role of the two corrupt agents who ended up using their roles in the Silkroad investigation to steal and extort money from Ross Ulbricht, and whose participation was kept undisclosed from the jury, and to some degree even from Silkroad founder defense team during his trial.

ross-ulbrichtUlbricht’s defense argues that the evidence revealing the corrupt federal agents had unfettered, high-level admin access to Silkroad; and the power to remove, add, and change material to the website; as well as pocket over a million US dollars, was covered up, and the jury was not allowed to know it.

Not only was the evidence tainted, but was kept unknown until after the trial was over. Silkroad founder defense team argues that the action is against the law and a direct violation of the “Brady Rule.” This is one of the major issues it has addressed in the appeal, but there are several weighty challenges to the Silkroad investigation and trial.

But, his re-trial doesn’t look as though it is going to be good as the prosecution team has now hit back with its own, equally large document refuting each and every one of those arguments.

In its 186-page document presented on the evening of June 17, the prosecution rehashed much of Ross’ 11-day trial in 2015 and defended repeated decisions by District Court Judge Katherine Forrest in its favor – a series of moves to deny defense witnesses, clamp down on defense evidence, and admit its evidence that led his lawyers to call for a mistrial not less than five instances.

Initial efforts by Ulbricht’s lawyers to take the case to court were earlier on thwarted by Judge Katherine Forrest in March. In her memo back then, Judge Forrest shot down a series of arguments presented by Ulbricht’s defense team including the corruption charges that were slapped on former Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges and former DEA agent Carl Mark Force.

The two allegedly blackmailed Ulbricht and ended up extorting thousands of dollars from Silkroad. The defense team also pointed out that the period allocated to them for reviewing the evidence was not sufficient. The defense also cited unfair, denying Fifth Amendment rights for their client during the Silkroad hearing.

However, the argument by the defense that it was completely kept in the dark regarding Carl Mark Force’s misbehavior till the trial was concluded, and was not also told about the role that Shaun Bridges played doesn’t look good for Ross Ulbricht’s re-trial. In its latest hit-back, the prosecution argues that any disclosure it should have made as regards Silkroad investigation is irrelevant because Bridges’ and Force’s behavior had nothing to do with challenging Silkroad founder’s guilt.

They continue to argue that his appeal based on the corruption of the two federal agents doesn’t add up for the simple reason that, be that as it may, Ulbricht hasn’t explained how the information he pursued to admit or compel was exculpatory. Nowhere does Ross Ulbricht explain how Shaun Bridges and Carl Mark Force’s Silkroad crimes impeach the prosecution’s “overwhelming” evidence.

The 186-page prosecution document includes a laundry list of very compelling evidence against the Silkroad founder that it argues has no any relation to the two corrupt federal agents. That critical proof includes records of transactions on a bitcoin public ledger referred to as the “blockchain” that traces $18 million bitcoins sent from the Silkroad servers to his laptop, a journal and logbook found on that laptop, and FBI agents catching Ross Ulbricht red-handed in a library in San Francisco, logged into Silkroad as its administrator, even gaining access to a so-called “mastermind” page. Ulbricht’s defense team has so far declined to comment on the rebuttal by the prosecution.

And even though Ulbricht’s defense lawyers have argued that Force or Bridge used their illegal access to Silkroad to tamper somehow with its account or even plant evidence on the laptop, the prosecution has responded by stating that the Silkroad staff account that was hijacked from an informant by Shaun Bridges did not actually have the “root” access crucial for that sort of tampering.

It also goes on to argue that the defense knew about the crimes that Force committed on Silkroad to the extent that if it had suspected some evidence-planting on Ross Ulbricht’s laptop, it ought to have tried to demonstrate foul play during the trial.

In fact, Ross Ulbricht’s defense lawyers did make arguments that evidence-planting could have been possible on his laptop through a BitTorrent connection, but the prosecution appeared to proof that bogus to the jury. Prosecutor Serrin Turner has stated that there was nothing that was planted on Ulbricht’s laptop to affect the Silkroad case.

Read More

Australia To Auction 24,518 BTC Confiscated From Silk Road User

The Australian authorities will be auctioning off 24,518 bitcoins estimated to be worth $12.9 million; these bitcoins were originally seized from a user of the now defunct darknet marketplace Silkroad. The auction will be held by Ernst & Young global professional services company.This sale will mark an end to a process that started in late 2014 when authorities confiscated the bitcoins from a Silkroad user known as Richard Pollard. Pollard is a Melbourne resident who was later given an 11-year prison sentence on charges of commercial drug trafficking on Silkroad.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Silk Road 3.0 is BACK ONLINE and open for business. The team did a massive security overhaul on the site to try and make it more secure and anonymous.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3.0 Guide <<

ross-ulbrichtRoss Ulbricht, the creator of the original Silkroad, was arrested in October 2013 and was sentenced to life in prison for running the infamous dark web marketplace Silkroad in 2015. The US Marshals Service auctioned off more than 170,000 bitcoins confiscated after the shutdown of Silkroad, which includes 144,000 bitcoins seized by the authorities from the Silkroad creator’s laptop. Last year,the final auction held by the US Marshals Service saw 44,000 Silkroad bitcoins put up for bidding.

Ernst & Young said in a press statement that the auction of bitcoins seized from the Silkroad user will be conducted over a 2-day period starting from 12.01am on 20th June 2016 Australian time. Just like other previous auctions held in the US by the US Marshals Service (USMS), all bitcoins for sale will be subdivided into blocks consisting of 2,000 BTC, which are approximately worth $1million,with 11 unique blocks up for sale. In a short statement, the company’s transactions partner, Adam Nikitins said that he’s optimistic that the bitcoin auction would attract buyers from both Europe and North America since they participated heavily in the last four open sales held in the US.

Australia To AuctionAccording to Nikitins, they are targeting sophisticated investors who appreciate the value of putting their money in an expanding digital asset.
Participants can directly submit their applications to E&Y for inclusion into the forthcoming bitcoin auction; deadline for submission is on 7th June,with Ernst & Young hoping to collect all necessary information for the event before 10th June.

This event is expected to take place just before official halving of anticipated rewards paid off to the bitcoin network’s transaction processors, which is scheduled to occur a month later in July. The timing of events suggests that economic fluctuations of bitcoin market rates play a huge role in determining when to auction seized cryptocurrencies.

Read More

Silk Road 3.0 Returns With A Wide Range Of Products And Services

QzRddtyJw30yuEax1Police forces worldwide have added a number of new sites on their bucket list to track down, a majority of which mostly picked up where the Silkroad has left off with a name that’s not easily forgotten, and never will be.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Silk Road 3.0 is BACK ONLINE and open for business. The team did a massive security overhaul on the site to try and make it more secure and anonymous.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3.0 Guide <<

This is not the first time the very first modern black market and best-known platform for illicit drugs emerges in the darknet. Following predecessors that law enforcement agencies have been forcibly shut down- the original Silk Road and Silk Road 2.0, comes Silkroad 3.0.

The darknet market has reportedly been active weeks prior to its initial publicity on a Reddit thread on May 15th. It’s impressive how in such a short time, the Tor hidden site is now brimming with all sorts of goods and services, from hardcore drugs, hacking guides, exploit kits, Netflix accounts, fake IDs and passports, but many remain skeptical amidst the new Silkroad’s massive offerings.

Still, whether you need or want anything or simply out of curiosity, Silkroad 3.0 is something one cannot help but take a close look.

Welcome to the Silkroad

Registered members are given a warm welcome by staff member with the pseudonym “Dimitri” along with a greeting post, conveying the message “You will find everything that you desire here.”

Silkroad 3.0 boasts of being the oldest and most secure marketplaces on the darknet that has stood the test of time. The post tells of the Silkroad staff and vendors catering to software, services, and every substance imaginable, and providing only the highest quality products and the best service you can get.

Putting a keen eye on the platform, it seems that the bulk of the operation is centered on drugs. The menu-style sidebar displays a category including Cannabis, Benzos, Dissociatives, Ecstasy, Opioids, Stimulants, Psychedelic, and Prescription. The popular Weed, Cocaine, MDMA, Heroin, Meth, and Speed fall under some of the headings. Other links are comprised of software, eBooks, and digital goods such subscription accounts for eBay, Netflix, and PayPal.

Sounds like what a drug user, hacker, or anyone with a particular purpose needs. But why aren’t many users convinced of its legitimacy?

A Troubled Past

There’s no one to blame for the looming suspicions, since the big name has constantly been associated with FBI crackdowns, exit scams, drug busts and arrests.

The original Silkroad website in 2011 quickly gained notoriety and became a haven for underground dark web-based global trading, and a marketplace that people have come to trust. By the year 2012, Silkroad managed an estimated $15 million worth of annual transactions. It was at its peak and at the top of the game, but Silkroad ended in total disaster with the website seized by the FBI and its creator Ross Ulbricht arrested.

What about Silkroad 2.0? It suffered the same fate and was shut down a year upon launch. An earlier version of 3.0, Silk Road Reloaded, was reportedly mysteriously abandoned after just two months, despite doubts of being FBI-run honeypot.

Warning Signs along the Silkroad Path

SRWelcome (1)The Silkroad 3.0’s support forum is piling up with unhappy customers and a number of “unresolved” topics that are currently listed. One comment shares that after several emails, there were still no goods and no feedback from the vendor.

Another comment tells of pills offered at a discounted rate, only to be asked at the last minute for another 30 bucks for shipping. The seller hasn’t been online for a couple of days and this buyer is asking for help, by which a Silkroad 3.0 admin simply answers with “I think a vendor is a scammer [sic].”

The forums do give users a warning that certain products and services, like child pornography, firearms, chemical weapons, and terrorism-related items are not allowed to be sold on Silkroad.

This area of the Silkroad 3.0 website is directly linked to the Crypto Market, another underground darknet market for irregular commodities, whose admin is said to be the people behind the revamped Silkroad darknet market.

On keeping up with users’ expectations and evading seizure by authorities, will Silkroad 3.0 last? There are indeed a myriad of unfortunate events that could soon befall the marketplace, but there’s no better answer than to let the website speak for itself.

Read More

FBI Team That Takedown Silk Road, Where Are They Now?

drugs-and-computer-10-4-131Buying drugs online has evolved from niche activity for the avante-garde tech-savvy individual to commonplace as it presents a convenient way for users to get what they need and want. The dark web has created a safer environment compared to meeting up with a bloke backed up by goons of bodyguards, and Silkroad rose up to be the best-known platform for illicit drugs soon after its launch in 2011 as the very first modern darknet market.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Silk Road 3.0 is BACK ONLINE and open for business. The team did a massive security overhaul on the site to try and make it more secure and anonymous.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3.0 Guide <<

As well as drugs, a host of other illegal products, wares and services were for sale at Silkroad, including fake passports, fake drivers’ licenses,hacking techniques, and digital goods such as pirated content. Despite harboring freedom for a good cause that rightfully serves Tor users with their privacy and security in mind, for these blatant reasons, the Silkroad was brought down- and it was no easy task.

After two and a half years in operation, the Silkroad servers were seized, the creator Dread Pirate Roberts has been unmasked, whilst both vendors and customers’ private accounts have been exposed to government scrutiny. This was not without the risks of dealing with America’s high-profile cybercriminals and trying to beat them in their own game, just like how they handled the Silkroad operators. The case was closed by no other than the FBI’s cyber-crime unit, a team who has managed to unwrap the tricky layers of The Onion Router and penetrated the Silkroad hideout.

Cybersecurity Mercenaries

Former FBI Agent Christopher Tarbell previously stated that Silkroad was the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace during that time. He’s only one among top cybersecurity talents who have all found their way to greener pastures at the Berkeley Research Group (BRG).

In February, BRG proudly announced the new gang lineup off the world’s foremost cybersecurity experts and 2013’s Silkroad key investigators: Matthew Edman, former Tor developer and part of FBI Remote Operations Unit; Thomas Brown, former federal prosecutor named BRG’s Global Leader as director of cybersecurity and investigations; computer scientist Thomas Kiernan and digital extraction technician Ilhwan Yum as associate directors.

The significant names each played a crucial role in investigations aside from Silkroad, and prosecutions of groups such as Anonymous and LulzSec, while some worked with infamous hacktivist turned federal informant Hector Monsegur. Alongside Silkroad, they investigated a NASDAQ Russian hack, the $6 billion money-laundering case against Liberty Reserve’s cryptocurrency, the hacks of Citibank, PNC Bank, Rove Digital botnet, and Samarth Agrawal’s prosecution.

No doubt, their expertise and extensive experience beyond Silkroad on national security matters and intelligence agencies make each expert for hire invaluable to BRG. The titan consulting firm’s founder Dr. David Teece refers to Tom and his group as not in any way run-of-the-mill cybersecurity consultants, rather a veteran team that’s undeniably of incredible value to their clients across the board. Brown expresses that their strength lies in their experience, which does not only apply to critical cybersecurity issues and crises like the Silkroad case, but in their ability to work together which gives them confidence that will lead to top-notch results for their clients.

The Growth of the Private Industry

Indeed, the former FBI team that led to the Silkroad bust is highly valuable to federal law enforcement agencies, only the government is unable to keep up with salary perks the private industry can generously give. BRG clients include Bank of America, General Electric, and U.S. Steel, among many of the world’s biggest industries and wealthiest companies like the multi-billion-dollar tobacco giant Philip Morris which Teece successfully defended. The firm brings in annual revenue amounting to tens of millions of dollars.

Thomas Galati, NYPD intelligence chief
Thomas Galati, NYPD intelligence chief

Thomas Galati, NYPD intelligence chief, told Congress that the private industry provides a lot of opportunity which attracts the best people out there. James Comey, FBI Director, admits to the continual challenge of the Bureau when it comes to retaining good cybersecurity talent like the guys who went off the charts in the shutdown of the Silkroad dark web site.

The private industry of cybersecurity is expected to grow to more than $170 billion by the year 2020. To top it off, extending from the scope of the private sector is Hollywood’s 21st Century Fox offering high-paying deals for being exclusive sources for the studio’s book, feature articles, and highly anticipated movie based on the Silkroad case.

Read More