The Slippery Slope of Silk Road
May 29, 2015
No soup for you Ross Ulbricht!
U.S. District Court Judge Katherine B. Forrest made sure Ross Ulbricht, 31, and the creator of the underground drug trafficking site Silk Road, knew he wasn’t above the law when she sentenced him to life in prison for seven felonies ranging from money laundering to drug trafficking. It’s been mentioned in several media outlets that Ulbricht was a former Eagle Scout as if that somehow means he was incapable of any real crime because he took an oath at eight-years old; and, that’s a not a really great selling point considering L. Ron Hubbard founder of Scientology-also touted as a former Eagle Scout.
The parallel between the two doesn’t stop there though as they both created a cult-like world where their warped sense of reality was law. No child pornography, no stolen goods, no fake degrees but kid killing? Sure-hey did he work for Johnson & Johnson before?
One troubling customer compliant from a woman who lost her brother to an overdose of heroin from Silk Road mentioned that perhaps the site was too lax and that children could order drugs. When the Silk Road employee pointed out that perhaps there was a hair too much freedom Ulbricht responded:
“THAT’S MY WHOLE IDEA!” Any constraints would destroy the fundamental concept.”
That whole does not like to be challenged and work falls into The Sociopathic Business Model™ as does not recognizing the rights of others.
One of the best written pieces comes from Wired by Joshuah Bearman who brilliantly exposes Ulbricht from his insecure student days almost like we were reading from his
diary journal-oh wait-to his dissent down the slippery slope when he hires a hit man (more than once) while flawlessly introducing the cast of characters in this stranger than fiction story. Hey criminals if you’re going to commit crimes while you diabolically try to take over the world don’t keep a diary journal.
“In 2011,” he wrote to himself, “I am creating a year of prosperity and power beyond what I have ever experienced before. Silk Road is going to become a phenomenon and at least one person will tell me about it, unknowing that I was its creator.”
Every evil villain needs a 47-year-old Mormon Grandfather for a sidekick and Ulbricht got Chihuahua-loving, out on disability EMT Curtis Green. Sadly, Green was the first to slither down the slope of Silk Road when the feds arrested him in his home with $27,000 worth of Peruvian cocaine tossed about his kitchen like the Swedish Chef just taught a cooking class.
When Green was released on bail, he went home and found his door still broken. His daughter had cleaned up some. In his bedroom the cops had apparently discovered that this particular Mormon grandpa owned a dildo, which they left for him standing straight up on the bed.
Ulbricht first decided to have Green roughed-up but then thought better an opted with a murder option. What’s the cost of extinguishing a human life? $40,000 up front and another $40,000 once the chicken & stars soup hits the pavement. Good thing the hitman was actually undercover Special Agent Carl Mark Force IV of the Baltimore DEA.
It was like Scarface on fast-forward, Force thought. But he played right along. Over a week or so, Force conspired with his team to complete the fake death of Green. Force sent DPR photos of the staged torture, followed by photos of Green, facedown on the floor, pallid, smeared with Campbell’s Chicken & Stars soup—the supposed aftermath of asphyxiation. Green holed up in his house (he had to stay out of sight as part of the ruse) in a kind of self-imposed witness protection, and Force went back to Baltimore. DPR sent $40,000 to a Capital One account controlled by the government as an advance. DPR never got back the stolen bitcoins, but once in receipt of the putative proof of death, he sent another $40,000 for a job well done.
Joshuah Bearman in his two part piece for Wired does a great job of showing the inter-agency dick-tripping that goes on between the FBI and DEA. This case was up for grabs and tossed on the floor like raw meat and the agents, rabid dogs fighting to get a pat on the head from their superiors. When Ulbricht dubbed himself Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride, DEA Agent Force & FBI Agent Tarbell come across as confused lovers not sure whether they hated the target of their investigation or wanted to fuck him.
Everyone loves The Princess Bride, and the reference was clear immediately. (Force and Tarbell, who had both seen the movie many times, got the implication as well: plausible deniability.) The mask, worn by successive generations of pirates, obfuscates the relationship between the name and the man. The christening of DPR was emblematic of Silk Road’s secrecy. It also ignited a true cult of personality. DPR was thoughtful and at times eloquent. For believers, Silk Road was more than a black market; it was a sanctuary. For DPR, the site was a political polemic in practice. “Stop funding the state with your tax dollars,” DPR wrote, “and direct your productive energies into the black market.” DPR got more grandiose over time, writing that every transaction on Silk Road was a step toward universal freedom.
Oh friend you’ll never know universal freedom again. But if you play your cards right the agency boys will come calling and start asking for your help with stars in their eyes. Don’t be easy-at least get flowers out of the deal first.