Okay, I am mystified here; in fact, I just want to scream, “Are you really that stupid?” Apparently, the two agents instrumental in the investigation of Ross Ulbricht and the original Silk Road Tor market place were. From Wired magazine today, “DEA special agent Carl Force and Secret Service special agent Shaun Bridges were arrested Monday and charged with wire fraud and money laundering. “ If you have not already read the Affidavit of Special Agent Tigran Gambaryan in Support of the Criminal Complaint filed in the Northern District of California against them, I encourage you to do so. If for nothing else, you will get a good laugh.
We have talked about supporting the federal agencies involved in this case and waiting until the facts are in before determining guilt. Well, the facts are in, the charts laid out and the Bitcoins spent. These two idiots, who held themselves out as experts in online investigations, certainly had no idea how to be successful criminals. Both of them need to go back to school on that topic. In reading the affidavit, it is clear that the two of them thought they were smarter than their counterparts. Special Agent Gambaryan does a masterful job laying out his investigation into former agents Force and Bridges trip through stupidcriminalville. Force and Bridges, like the person they arrested for Silk Road, failed to use some of the basic online security procedures. Neither apparently had worked any major international fraud cases (if they had they didn’t use anything they learned) because they had no idea how to hide and move large amounts of money without using their own names and bank accounts.
Okay, back to the basics here…If you are an undercover officer, don’t commit crimes while undercover. Oops, they must have been absent that day in the basic undercover agent course.
Ross Ulbricht, 30, was found guilty by a Manhattan federal jury on all seven counts in the indictment he was charged. He was convicted as the mastermind behind the original version of the Tor Hidden Service known as the Silk Road. The pundits have already begun to take apart the prosecution’s case saying it was unfair. The maligning of Judge Forrest’s handling of the case before and during the trial has begun in earnest. Even Ulbricht’s attorney, Joshua Dratel, is being questioned publically for his apparent lack of a real defense. Some explaining he simply set the stage for the inevitable appeal.
So what happens next? Well Ross still has a pending indictment for the murder-for-hire plot in the Maryland District. Whether or not he will go to trial on that charge is unknown at this time. But, a betting man might consider that will be a slam dunk too based on the evidence presented in New York.
So how was Ross convicted when he wasn’t guilty according to his defense? What I have said before is exactly what the U.S. Attorney’s office presented; they put on a typical drug trial. Ross Ulbricht was convicted because of the drug case not because of his inventive method of using Tor as a “Social Experiment”. The Tor Hidden Service was only the vehicle by which the drug conspiracy was conducted. The Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) Serrin Turner put the pieces together one by one and connected the face of Ross Ulbricht to the online persona Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR). They moved the evidence collected from the real world through the medium of communication, which just happened to be Tor. The AUSA used cooperating witnesses to explain the drug trade and like in any good drug trial followed the money straight back to Ross Ulbricht. Never mind that the money was in what the jury probably thought was some obscure online money trading system. Money for drugs is just that, money for drugs. Ross Ulbricht is now, not just a famous drug King pin, but a convicted one.
The new main page of what purports to be the reboot of Silk Road says “This is no place for men without souls. We rise again Silk Road 3.0.” Check it out, the new site address is at http://qxvfcavhse45ckpw.onion.
Who knows if this is a reboot by the 2.0 staff or a total take over of the name and concept by new people. Whatever it is the store is open.
No doubt that someone is interested in the millions of dollars in Bitcoin possible in the name, The site appears to have reopened with in just two days of the FBI’s take down of the Silk Road 2.0 and many of its competitors. From a business model having all your competitors eliminated in one large law enforcement take down is pretty helpful.
At least the new Dread Pirate Roberts is polite….
How long until the next hand off to a new DPR….FBI, the ball is in your court.
I have been a bit busy lately writing pieces for two different correction websites. In Back to Tor, Silk Road and Bitcoins I revisit the “Dark Web” for corrections and discuss a recent study that found 18% of American drug users had used Silk Road “products. In Bitcoins behind bars: Is it possible?, I explore the possibility that inmates could adopt bitcoins or some other cryptocurrency to conduct illegal enterprises from behind prison walls. Please check them out!
I wrote a guest blog at Elsevier’s SciTechConnect Blog called, Policing the Silk Road: Is Law Enforcement Ready? Todd and I stress that law enforcement can and should work these cases. This case shows even criminals using Tor make mistakes.