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United States vs. Dread Pirate Roberts (Silk Road) FBI Report (2013) [pdf] (krebsonsecurity.com)
99 points by ryansiddle 28 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 80 comments



As a historical document, you should be aware that the SR1 complaint is extremely incomplete and misleading; one could write a book* about what is left out or wrong in it, starting with the Carl Mark Force and Bridges corruption scandal, lighting on the shall we say questionable veracity of Agent Tarbell's account of finding the Iceland server's IP (and who shortly afterwards left for the greener climes of the private cybersecurity sector), before moving on to the revelations at trial like about the hitmen scams - not to neglect pondering the claims recently by Variety Jones about, among other things, participants in the corruption scandal still being on the loose. Quite a rabbit hole.

* One could also write a book naively taking all police claims at face value without applying any critical thinking, and it seems one Wired journalist did so...


This whole case just makes me incredibly sad.

Two federal agents tampered with important evidence, likely fabricated the entire “murder for hire” fiction, abused their law enforcement positions to steal millions of dollars worth of bitcoins, and carefully framed other people.

The literally corrupt federal agents got a slap on the wrist. They’ll both be out of prison soon.

But the young man who built a website for weed is to remain in prison for life.

What a sad, miscarriage of justice.


"website for weed" is underplaying the crime. All the major illegal drugs were sold... including those which have no place existing in the world.

Yes, major corruption on the federal side. But not much sympathy for the crime here, esp. as it was so intentional and lucrative.


The whole "XYZ material shouldn't exist in the world" thing seems so naive. It's not hard to manufacture most things and people always will find ways to do it. If we want to use legislation to help people then we should do that but using violence and prisons probably isn't helping anyone.


I disagree.

It's not hard to find a zero day in software used for parts of our critical infrastructure. It's not hard to create potent drugs from small amounts of precursors. It's not hard to build a gun or a bomb in a machine shop.

But the thing is, most people that have those skills are not malicious. At worst, they're money-motivated and will sell these types of society damaging substances or objects, but with the long arm of the law and a credible threat of jail time most of the people that would try to make a quick buck are dissuaded from doing so, or at least slowed by the resultant paranoia.

I know it's not perfect. I know many illegal drugs should be legal and I know that people outside of the western world smuggle in or transmit these things that damage our society, but that doesn't invalidate our struggle. We cannot live in a lawless society and though I think that it is better to cut the root causes of things like drug abuse, we still need to keep dangerous drugs to a minimum.


>But the thing is, most people that have those skills are not malicious. At worst, they're money-motivated and will sell these types of society damaging substances or objects, but with the long arm of the law and a credible threat of jail time most of the people that would try to make a quick buck are dissuaded from doing so, or at least slowed by the resultant paranoia.

If this were the actually the case and people with those skills weren't malicious and were dissuaded by the law then the only way to obtain those substances would be to manufacture them yourself. As it stands you can find sellers on Instagram so that's clearly wrong.


    It's not hard to manufacture most things and people 
    always will find ways to do it.
Ever hear of a drug addict becoming so desperate that they start manufacturing their own drugs for personal use? Aside from growing pot, which I wouldn't call "manufacturing", not once have I ever heard of this happening. If it's so "not hard", why doesn't this happen?

Manufacturing drugs isn't difficult on the order of refining uranium or something, but it's not trivial. You need knowledge, gear, raw materials that are not all trivial to obtain, and a location where you pull off some kind of small-scale chemical manufacturing operation without getting caught.

    If we want to use legislation to help people then we should 
    do that but using violence and prisons probably isn't 
    helping anyone.
I would certainly agree that we should not criminalize drug users of any sort.

Suppliers and manufacturers of deadly drugs are another story.

    The whole "XYZ material shouldn't exist in the world" thing 
    seems so naive.
What's naive is lumping all recreational drugs together with blanket statements like these.

Recreational drugs run the gamut from nearly harmless (marijuana, etc) to absolutely deadly (heroin, fentanyl, etc). In a just and logical world, they would never even be a part of the same discussion.

At the deadly end of the spectrum, yes, I certainly do feel confident in saying that some drugs have absolutely no place in society. I have seen what they do. I have been to the funerals for friends, loved ones, and family members. There is no safe way to use heroin. Drugs like meth, heroin, and crack destroy lives and towns.

It is the laziest and most naive possible libertarian dream to think that people should be allowed to supply deadlier drugs to people because of one's lasses-faire fever dreams. It's the kind of isolated, privileged fantasy that evaporates quickly when you have to identify your son in a morgue.


>Ever hear of a drug addict becoming so desperate that they start manufacturing their own drugs for personal use? Aside from growing pot, which I wouldn't call "manufacturing", not once have I ever heard of this happening. If it's so "not hard", why doesn't this happen?

Shake and bake meth is hardly uncommon.


> "website for weed" is underplaying the crime. All the major illegal drugs were sold... including those which have no place existing in the world.

Decriminalization of all drugs does seem to be something being taken very seriously. Reduces abuse, harm, and violent crime.


"no place existing in the world"?

Jesus this mentality is so stuck in the stone age and what enables the vile & pernicious war on drugs to continue.


The “war on drugs” has exacted a higher human toll on our society than any of the substances which you claim “have no place existing in the world.” Do some research.


I still don't think anyone deserves life in prison for creating a drug exchange website.


>> including those which have no place existing in the world.

Superstitious puritanical attitudes like that are why the site existed in the firstplace.


I believe it technically started as a "website for shrooms" not a "website for weed." Does that raise or lower the criminality? Because it's actually a lower schedule drug federally...


This is not an isolated incident, it happens every day. The justice system is more worried about putting someone behind bars, no matter if it is guilty or not. That makes death sentences even worse.


I think all drugs should be legal for recreational use, but Ulbricht almost certainly did try to murder several people and believed he succeeded. This evidence was admitted at trial and contributed to the sentence. The crooked agents' actions didn't invalidate those aspects of the fundings: it appears there's very strong evidence he genuinely tried to do that, repeatedly.

So, I have zero sympathy for him. Life is an appropriate sentence. Other DNM owners who don't try to kill people, on the other hand, I definitely tend to sympathize with (though if they allow sale of fentanyl or poisons/weapons, that complicates things).


> miscarriage of justice.

Victimless crime in general is miscarriage of justice, imho.


There’s two books that cover the case:

https://www.amazon.com/American-Kingpin-Criminal-Mastermind-...

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23502744-silk-road

Still waiting for the movie to be made with Ross’ doppelgänger Robert Patterson playing him.


haha, the movie comment made me laugh. I could totally see that


As a general rule, I don't think there's any reason to believe the average FBI complaint to be any more or less accurate than this one.


Do you have a better single source for review, or are we stuck having to piece together information from the varied sources?



Why would a site dedicated to the defense of a convicted criminal be any less biased than the government in this case?


One is incentivized to tell the truth while the other has been caught red handed doing parallel reconstructionism.


Their incentive is to get someone out of jail. That's not always the same thing.


I liked this video: https://youtu.be/GpMP6Nh3FvU



Wow, I just looked him up as I was unaware of the sentence and he received two life sentences with no parole in Federal prison for a first offender who made an online market place (for illicit goods).


The Silk Road caused unprecedented embarrassment for the DEA and other agencies. Each news report about it just made it more known and popular, and highlighted the fact that the Federal government couldn't track down the website or its administrators. The combination of Tor and Bitcoin made a brazen drug bazaar untraceable yet widely accessible for the first time ever.

So they brought the hammer down hard. He did get slapped with attempted murder for trying to hire a hitman online, as well. But doubtless his sentence reflected how incompetent it made the feds look.


He never “got slapped” with attempted murder. The prosecution floated rumors and allegations in the media about some kind of far fetched hit man situation in a (successful) attempt to influence the jury to make the other charges stick. However, they were never confident enough in these allegations to actually bring charges.


Worse than that. They used the murder for hire charges as part of sentencing even though they were never proven.


Do you have a sources that an unconvicted charge played a role in his sentencing?


The sentencing decision can be found here https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/newyork/news/pr...

It includes references to the murder for hire allegations as justification for the sentence.

> ULBRICHT also demonstrated a willingness to use violence to protect his criminal enterprise and the anonymity of its users, soliciting six murders-for-hire in connection with operating the site, although there is no evidence that these murders were actually carried out.


This is exactly what I was looking for, thank you.


Sorry I posted the wrong link before. This is the actual full sentencing document. It makes it explicit that the sentence is being enhanced by the murder for hire allegations.

> Accordingly, there is no basis for Ulbricht’s objection to the PSR’s inclusion of a Guidelines enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(2), which applies “[i]f the defendant used violence, made a credible threat to use violence, or directed the use of violence.” (Def.’s Ltr. dated May 22, 2015, at 80). As its plain terms make clear, the enhancement does not require that violence actually occur, but only that violence be credibly intended. See United States v. Harris, 578 Fed. Appx. 451, 453-54 (5th Cir. 2014) (affirming application of enhancement even though “there was no actual drug stash” that defendant intended to rob, explaining: “the enhancement's view that higher sentences are warranted for those with a propensity for violence—even if just reflected in a threat and not an actual act of violence—is implicated even when the threat occurs in connection with a sting”). Moreover, contrary to Ulbricht’s argument that the murder-for-hire solicitations constitute uncharged conduct that cannot be factored into his base offense level, the solicitations were specifically charged as an overt act of the alleged narcotics conspiracy. See Indictment S1 14 Cr. 68 (KBF)¶¶ 16.b & 16.c. Moreover, all relevant conduct, whether charged or uncharged, must be considered in calculating Ulbricht’s base offense level in any event. See U.S.S.G. § 1B1.3(a). Notably, Ulbricht does not challenge any other aspect of the Guidelines calculation in the PSR. The Government agrees with the calculation in its entirety.

https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/2088711/silk-road...


Um. Every single person I know (including me up until now) thinks that he was imprisoned both for owning the drug marketplace AND the hit charges.


Ok great, but "every single person some random person on the internet knows" isn't a source.


He was.


> He did get slapped with attempted murder for trying to hire a hitman online, as well

Holy crap, the way you read these threads you would think drug dealers are totally harmless and being wrongfully punished for victimless crimes but this dude showed he was totally willing to commit murder.

But yeah, a bit over the top.


>this dude showed he was totally willing to commit murder

That's a gross overstatement. An agent who had infiltrated the site convinced him to agree to allow the agent to hire a hitman to kill another person on the site. This was after agents had already kidnapped and tortured the second person and used his account to threaten dpr. There was no attempt at conviction on that charge.


That agent was also Carl Mark Force IV, who is currently in prison for, among other things, surreptitiously trying to extort money out of DPR on the side and hiding that from the DEA. The prosecution withheld all evidence surrounding the corrupt DEA agent and Secret Service agent from the defense. I don't know if Ross wrote that message or not, but at the very least Force was already caught trying to frame the Silk Road administrator they had in custody for the theft. I find his testimony more suspicious than Ross's, and the logs were 100% up to him to write whatever he wanted.


And the victim Curtis Green said that maybe Carl Mark Force made up the evidence against Ross. Plus Force actually endangered Green’s life by doxing him as an informant to drug dealers.

Not to mention the Baltimore Task Force threatened to punish Green for stealing bitcoin from some admin access when it was in fact the corrupt federal agents who did it.


This comment greatly distorts the situation and neglects to mention the other instances. If he did order the hits, I think he deserves life, and there's very good evidence he did.


there was miscarriage of justice where dubious non-trial information was used in acquiring evidence, dubious non-trial information was used to get a conviction, and dubious non-trial information was used to rationalize sentencing

these are problems


> this dude showed he was totally willing to commit murder

Gonna need to see some evidence there. Some real evidence, not the ludicrous logs that Carl Force claimed to have created from chats with him.


Yep. They first put him in the Florence Supermax, which has a terrific policy where you first do 3 years of solitary. Since transferred to USP Tuscon, a high security, but not Supermax facility. Looks like they shut down visitation for the COVID duration.


Holy smokes, you're not wrong. Seems a bit out of proportion.

"Federal Bureau of Prisons director Norman Carlson argued for the creation of a new type of facility where the most dangerous, uncontrollable inmates could be isolated from correction officers and other prisoners for security and safety.

Under his guidance, Marion Penitentiary was operated in "permanent lockdown" for the next two decades. It became a model for the design of ADX as a control unit prison. Carlson said that such a prison would hold criminals desperate enough to murder corrections officers or other inmates in the hopes of being sentenced to death.

He argued that as draconian as these measures were, they were the only way to deal with inmates who have "absolutely no concern for human life.""

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ADX_Florence


Solitary confinement in general is out of proportion, particularly for extended periods. In my opinion it should be a violation of the Eighth amendment and they need to shut down Florence, but few people fight for it because it's full of really wicked humans. Important to remember they are still humans and torturing them is not okay.

That being said I also think that the life sentencing was probably appropriate considering he started the silk road as a fully grown man, so it's a clear reflection of his morals and empathy. It's difficult to think about how many addictions, overdoses, and so forth that he helped to enable, in addition to assaults and murders (silk road sold weapons and services). Not saying that it wouldn't have happened without him, but certainly enabling these things to be trafficked does not provide net positive to the world.


The first part, yes I 100% agree. The second part, I'll pull into a deeper discussion because I'm curious and I want to bounce some ideas off of you.

The argument for online drug marketplaces, as I understand it, is that it reduces violence since there is no longer a physical 'turf war' component. So, if people were going to buy drugs anyway, this offers a safe, nonviolent space in which to do it. It avoids an environment where dealers are shooting each other and innocent bystanders.

With regards to violence, just because Russ was silly enough to think that you could hire a real hitman over the internet doesn't mean that it's a real thing that happens.

Again, I'm not disagreeing with you. I just want to fling some spaghetti and see what sticks.


To be fair, as has been discussed elsewhere in this thread (and my own personal experience) was that it opened up this kind of marketplace to a lot of people who weren't buying these kinds of drugs before, due to precisely the risks you mention.

I guess there probably aren't too many statistics about the users of Silk Road though - so I'm not sure I can back up that claim. :)


You seem to take for granted that allowing people to buy and sell drugs anonymously at a distance is necessarily worse than gangs, cartels, and street violence related to drug selling in the real world. Reconsider.


> certainly enabling these things to be trafficked does not provide net positive to the world.

Yes, it does, because the alternative is the moronic drug war strategy that's been followed for the last 50 years.


Some people are kept in solitary for their own protection. People who hurt children tend not to make it long in prison. I went to high school with a kid who murdered both of his parents, and he was put in solitary mostly for his protection.

It's more of a sad state of American prisons where crimes like this are common and seemingly unstoppable in US prisons.


As sort of an extension of that, the fact that prison rape is socially accepted as just a part of going to prison is absolutely terrifying to me.

"In 2001, Human Rights Watch estimated that at least 4.3 million inmates had been raped while incarcerated in the United States."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison_rape_in_the_United_Stat...


> That being said I also think that the life sentencing was probably appropriate considering he started the silk road as a fully grown man, so it's a clear reflection of his morals and empathy.

I believe the purpose of prison should be to rehabilitate people, and put them on track to become contributing members of society.

This statement shows a viewpoint that prison sentences should be given as a way to separate bad people from the rest of society.

All humans are capable of growth and change. It’s better for society as a whole if we can enable this growth and then allow them to return to society as full contributing members. The attitude of prison being a punishment or a deterrent is a root cause of a lot of problems in our criminal justice system, such as very long punishments, poor prison conditions, and a lack of rehabilitation programs.


This is why I was so heartened by Gavin Newsom's signing of AB2147 to allow inmate firefighters to become full firefighter/EMTs after release.

https://www.npr.org/2020/09/11/912193742/california-bill-cle...

It really, really seems like a long time coming, and now a lot of guys/gals who made some bad choices in their life, for the first time have a clear path to building a better life for themselves.

In the coming years, as California's forestry management changes to include more aggressive management and controlled burns, these guys will be the backbone of keeping thousands and thousands of people as well as their homes safe.


I agree with you. I just wanted to focus my comment specifically on the topic of solitary confinement. At present moment such correctional and rehabilitational systems do not exist, so unfortunately yes prison sentences should be given as a way to separate dangerous people from society, while concurrently we need to be developing better rehabilitation and correctional services to make these old methods obsolete.


> All humans are capable of growth and change.

No, they aren't, and people die every day due to government's tolerance of such elements.

(Not saying this is the case with the DPR case)


> but certainly enabling these things to be trafficked does not provide net positive to the world.

You really wanna go there? Seriously? Nobody forces you to use drugs. It doesn't even harm anyone else directly. He didn't even sell drugs directly, he offered a marketplace for others to sell drug on. What about pawn shops? Should we lock em all up in super max prisons for providing weapons to people? I mean here the intent is at least directly to harm people other than the client, while with drugs its just to harm clients.

Net positive... LOL Name a single politican that does provide a net positive to the world. How about Trump? What about locking him up? Did he provide a net positive to the world? He has a list of crimes that could wrap buildings in documents, however he is president of the US, which somehow manages to kill more people in a year than this guy could have killed indirectly in a life-time. But hey, yeah lock em up!

> so it's a clear reflection of his morals and empathy.

Oh is it? So what now? We lock up everything who doesn't have your high moral standards in a federal super max? Oh wait, your morals seem a bit off actually. I think you are kindof insane. How about locking you up? Do you provide a net positive to the world? Probably not. Wait, let me just call 911 so they can lock you away for life.


Although I am 100% in agreement with your stance on the issue, I do feel that you are far too emotionally invested.

Your comment reads like you care what random strangers say on the internet. You shouldn't.

Despite the fact that you are right, others will not agree with you, and in fact may not even give a shit about the issue at all. They're humans, and every human is different. That's why we're so damn interesting.

The more you emotionally invest in what these people have to say, the more you will be dragged down into the abyss by them. Remember, that's not their abyss, that's your abyss. You created it by being so bothered by them.

This is my take on it, and if you have a different opinion, dude feel free to share I'm happy to hear! You have to approach everything on the internet as if it were an LSAT question you have to argue from an opposing viewpoint to pass the test. Make the best argument you possibly can, but don't be emotionally invested in it!

Again, I'm on your side. But I want you to hang around for the revolution, instead of having a heart-attack before we storm the gated communities.


> Should we lock em all up in super max prisons for providing weapons to people?

I said we should shut down Florence.

> Net positive... LOL Name a single politican that does provide a net positive to the world. How about Trump?

I have no idea why you have such an overpowering desire to inject your fascination with Trump into this discussion.

> Oh is it? So what now? We lock up everything who doesn't have your high moral standards in a federal super max?

This is the second time you seem to have misread my post. I said we should shut down Florence.


I dont get why. If you want the upside of businesses of scale (profits) why would you not get the downside of criminality at scale?

This is a moralistic version of privatize the gains and socialize the losses.

Im not even a big law and order guy, but the "go easy, boys will be boys" take seems baseless.


The isolation is to keep inmates from murdering guards ("most dangerous, uncontrollable inmates could be isolated from correction officers and other prisoners for security and safety"). Dread Pirate Roberts is a keyboard jockey with no priors. It seems unlikely he will attempt to murder guards.


Ross Ulbricht definitely owes a debt to society, but I don't think he falls into the category of "the most dangerous, uncontrollable inmates."

Is this guy going to stab a CO because they disrespected him?


https://antilop.cc/sr/ was a great source of information for those not following closely.

One of the corrupt agents involved, Carl Force, gets out of prison in a couple of weeks. The other corrupt agent, Shaun Bridges, gets out in a year. I find the corruption angle to be most intriguing. Maybe more were not caught.


This documentary sums it up pretty well. Definitely worth the time.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GpMP6Nh3FvU


Glad to see this here, this one is good. Disappointed but not entirely surprised that people are downplaying what's covered in this video.


Based on my training and experience, the war on drugs causes violence and wastes resources.


Al victimless crime law does that. We need constitutional freedom against such law imho.


I suggest national initiative type democracy, but everyone gets nervous when it comes to decentralizing power, even though we supposedly pride ourselves on being democratic. http://www.ncid.us/


If you're interested in the Silk Road story (and you should be, it's fascinating), have a listen to this talk by a federal prosecutor involved in it: https://youtu.be/Ot8sgY2JuVc


Was he actually charged with soliciting murder? I thought I read that he was not actually charged with that offense, yet the prosecutor mentioned it all the time.


He wasn't charged with it and the indictment was dismissed with prejudice after the failed Supreme Court appeal. He was however sentenced as if he was convicted of that, the judge explicitly stated as much during the sentencing, and the prosecutors also used that to sway the jury even though they wouldn't charge him with it.

Part of the reason why is because those charges most likely would not have actually resulted in conviction because it was blatantly entrapment on the face and the veracity of those claims is dubious given that all of that evidence is coming from Carl Mark Force IV, the same agent who is now convicted himself for his corruption in that investigation and stealing a fortune from the Silk Road and just pocketing it.

I realize it may seem like an entrapment defence wouldn't apply here but keep in mind, even for the government's alleged chain of events, the government absolutely induced the crime, they stole the money, they came along with the "solution", etc. Then there's the matter of if DPR was predisposed to commit the crime. He certainly had a predisposition to commit crime, but definitely not murder-for-hire in particular. Even in the conversation with Carl Mark Force IV, he did not want to kill him and explicitly stated so, the special agent convinced him that killing him was his only option, the guy knew names and had sensitive information, etc. Even after he got caught and the government seized his laptop with his encrypted drive mounted and got the keys to the kingdom they didn't find any other instance of anything like the alleged murder-for-hire plot. The government inducing the crime and the defendants lack of a predisposition for that specific crime are the two elements to an entrapment defense in federal court.

Because he wasn't actually charged with the crime he didn't get to mount any kind of defense against those allegations and the prosecutors just hid all of the corrupt B.S. involving Carl Mark Force IV and Shaun Bridges. I think Ross is guilty as sin of running the Silk Road but that trial was a huge miscarriage of justice and in an ideal world, a bunch of those prosecutors and law enforcement agents would be sitting in prison right beside him. Alas, only two of them are. I really feel like the Supreme Court should have overturned his sentence based off of not receiving due process for the murder-for-hire allegations yet being sentenced substantially worse based off of it.


Unfortunately, it’s perfectly legal to sentence a defendant for ‘acquitted conduct’. Google it.



He wasn't charged with any kind of homicide charge, but the murder-for-hire scheme was a predicate of his conspiracy charge; in other words, he was charged with the murders, under a (much) lesser charge of conspiracy. The state had the burden of establishing the murder-for-hire scheme, and the defense the opportunity to knock it down; contrary to popular opinion, it was an element of the trial.


It is highly unlikely anyone with any DarkNet experience would think they could use it for murder for hire. It's the sort of thing you can claim without any evidence and your average citizen would believe at face value.


I think you need to read up on the case. It’s not like Ross purchased a hit on the Silk Road marketplace. He was communicating directly with an individual whom he believed to be a top seller on his own platform.


It's interesting the trail of breadcrumbs he left leading up to his arrest. They go back years from his arrest.

Things like his posts on theshroomery.org where he leaked his gmail address with his real name. When they intercepted his fake IDs and he tells the agents "Anyone could hypothetically order these from the website Silk Road".


It's called parallel construction.




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