Ross Ulbricht, the alleged Dread Pirate Roberts and administrator of the Silk Road drug website, may be spending Christmas in a jail cell in Brooklyn, New York. But as the FBI widens its crackdown on the “dark web” drug scene, he may not be the only one.
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The Southern District of New York unsealed an indictment Friday against Andrew Michael Jones, Peter Phillip Nash and Gary Davis, accusing them of participating in the Silk Road’s conspiracy to traffic in narcotics, as well as computer hacking and money laundering. According to prosecutors, Jones and Davis worked as site administrators for Silk Road’s booming Bitcoin-based online drug business, tasked with duties like “responding to customer service inquiries and resolving disputes between buyers and sellers.” Nash is accused of working as the Silk Road’s “primary moderator” for its user forums. All three were allegedly paid between $50,000 and $75,000 a year by the Dread Pirate Roberts, Silk Road’s pseudonymous owner, according to the indictment.
I’ve reached out to the FBI for more information, and will update this post when I hear back.
Four others were indicted in relation to the Silk Road earlier this week, and were accused of selling methamphetamines through the site before it was shut down in early October.
In criminal complaints unsealed in October against Ross Ulbricht, the alleged Dread Pirate Roberts, the 29-year-old is accused of overseeing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin drug sales on Silk Road’s “dark web” drug site, hidden by the anonymity software Tor. He’s also accused of paying for the assassinations of six individuals, including another 47-year-old employee of the site named Curtis Clark Green who worked as an administrator under the nickname “ChronicPain.” None of those six killings has been proven to have actually taken place, however, and a criminal complaint against Ulbricht in the South District of Maryland explains that Green worked with federal agents to fake his own death to fool Ulbricht.
At least two of the three defendants named in Friday’s indictment, Davis and Jones, have also allegedly worked as moderators on the user forums of Silk Road 2.0, the newer version of the drug market site launched just a month after the original Silk Road’s takedown, using the handles “Libertas” and “Inigo,” respectively. In communications on the Silk Road’s forums, Libertas has also claimed to have full control over the user forums of the original Silk Road, suggesting a role beyond the administrator job prosecutors accuse him of holding. Inigo had hosted the so-called “Dread Pirate Roberts Book Club” on the site’s forums, where Silk Road’s users discussed libertarian philosophy and free market economics.
Jones seems to have been released on bail after his arrest; He posted a notice to Silk Road users on the user forums of Tor Market, a competing drug site, warning of a possible impending crackdown on Silk Road 2.0 and its owner, who also calls himself the Dread Pirate Roberts in homage to the original Silk Road’s creator.
“When I was in the interview room they showed me all sorts of shit that they should not know or have access to including conversations I’ve had with buyers and even [the Silk Road 2.0 administrator known as the Dread Pirate Roberts],” he seems to have written in the post. “Something is definitely wrong and they have the ability to see things on here only mods or admins should like [bitcoin] transfers and a dispute I had.”
The Silk Road 2.0 administrator who goes by the name the Dread Pirate Roberts responded to news of two of his moderators’ arrests by reassuring his site’s users that the Silk Road 2.0 marketplace hasn’t been affected, as the user forums and market are hosted on separate sites. “Silk Road has not been compromised even if the allegations are true,” Roberts wrote. “Neither had access to sensitive material. I will make an announcement later to address the concerns this has raised.”
As the FBI’s takedown of the (first) Silk Road widens, the site’s alleged creator Ulbricht has been denied bail, and is being held in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center. His family and supporters have launched a fundraising campaign on the crowdfunding site Crowdtilt to help pay for Ulbricht’s legal defense. But they’ve struggled to raise the minimum $10,000 necessary to keep the donated funds, not to mention the $500,000 target they’ve set on the site, and the campaign’s deadline arrives Saturday.
Meanwhile, someone claiming to be the girlfriend of alleged Silk Road employee Andrew Michael Jones posted a message to Reddit Thursday night saying that he had been arrested and asking for more information from the site’s users.
“Can anyone give me any info on who he was?” she writes. “I’m hoping he was well liked and respected because even though I didn’t know he was doing this, I can guarantee he was doing it out of his passion for Libertarianism and for the idea of a free marketplace.”
With reporting contributed by Runa Sandvik and Susan Radlauer.
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