The Silk Road's Forgotten Three Languish Without Trial
Ross Ulbricht, the suspected kingpin of the deep web bazaar Silk Road, awaits his trial—but his top three lieutenants have yet to even receive a start date. Meet the men that allegedly helped keep Silk Road running.
While the spotlight shines ever stronger on the upcoming trial of alleged Silk Road 'kingpin' Ross Ulbricht, much less attention is being paid to three other men who have also been accused of being staff members on the deep web marketplace. They face similar charges to Ulbricht—with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
This week, Ulbricht's trial was pushed back to January 5th, 2015. His alleged accomplices have not announced trial start date yet. They are the Silk Road's forgotten three, and this is what we know about them.
On December 19th, 2013, three law enforcement agencies launched a series of synchronized international raids to catch alleged staff members of Silk Road. The FBI descended on a house in Virginia, the Australian Federal Police arrested a man in Brisbane, and Irish police busted another.
Each one of these men, who are believed to have taken on different ranks and responsibilities within the Silk Road organization, has been indicted for conspiracy to traffic narcotics, (due to the drugs sold on Silk Road), conspiracy to hack a computer, (because of the hacking software available on the site), and conspiracy to launder money, which is being pinned on the marketplace's use of Bitcoin. According to the FBI, these crimes carry a maximum of life imprisonment.
Although there's been no official announcement on how these men were caught, a current staff member of the second iteration of Silk Road told me that he believed it may have been due to an analysis of Ulbricht's computer. The three apparently provided identifying documents when the first took up staff positions at Silk Road.
The first man listed on the indictment is Andrew Michael Jones, who was 24 at the time of the filing. He's accused of operating under the pseudonym 'Inigo'.
In The Princess Bride, the novel and film from which Ulbricht allegedly derived his nom de plume, Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR), Inigo is the character who vindicates himself by training to become an expert swordsman. At the end of the film version, he is given the opportunity to become DPR, but his fate is unknown.
On the Silk Road, Inigo played a part in maintaining the site's book club, amongst other activities. He ran a forum thread where users could debate the libertarian and political works that the club focused on. Inigo also allegedly took on a customer service role, and helped solve disputes between buyers and vendors on the site, in his capacity as an administrator.
According to the indictment, he made $50,000-$75,000 a year for his work on Silk Road, as did the other two men named.
Andrew Jones, who goes by Drew to his friends and family, is pictured above with his girlfriend in a photo that ran in a recent local news item. He currently living at his parents house after his family paid a $1 million bond. His movement is limited; he's allowed to travel to New York for court appearances, but is not allowed to access a computer.
These crimes carry a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence, and a maximum of life imprisonment
The second pseudonym noted on the indictment is 'Libertas'—allegedly an Irish man named Gary Davis, who, according to his profile on a dating website, is 26 years old.
When the first Silk Road was seized by the FBI in October last year, Libertas wrote a heartfelt goodbye on the site's forum. "Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters in arms," he started, "Silk Road has fallen."
"Whilst this is devastating to me personally on so many levels […] it serves to strengthen my resolve to fighting the hands of Law Enforcement that are committed to strangling personal freedom from our bodies."
But barely a month later, Libertas wrote a triumphant post announcing the launch of the second Silk Road, entitled "We rise again!"
"We are born free, yet moments later we are shackled by the rule of law. It is time, once again, to break free of those shackles," he wrote.
To accompany his rebellion-infused rhetoric, Libertas used an image of the iconic Guy Fawkes mask—the one synonymous with the hacktivist collective Anonymous—as his avatar. Curiously, the man accused of running that account has the same jet-black, well-groomed goatee.
The same night Davis was arrested, the local police released him on bail. This apparently greatly annoyed the FBI agents who had flown over to interrogate him. The US is attempting to have Davis extradited.
Davis, after surrendering his passport, now has to report three times a week to the Greystones garda station. Looking over the coast, in a sleepy Irish town dense with quaint cafes, the station seems the last place you'd expect to find someone allegedly involved in a multi-million dollar drug marketplace.
Finally, on the other side of the world in Brisbane Australia, Peter Phillip Nash, who is 41, was arrested, accused of being the person behind 'SSBD' and a number of other pseudonyms. SSBD would send weekly reports to DPR as part of his job as a moderator, keeping him updated of the latest happenings on the forums, according to the indictment.
Reports spread that Nash had worked at a prison himself, but he clarified to Australia-based journalist Eileen Ormsby that he worked "for disability services supporting adults with intellectual disabilities."
The charges these three men face are nearly identical to those faced by Ross Ulbricht, although he additionally faces the 'kingpin charge'—something usually reserved for mafia bosses. (The murder-for-hire charges have been dropped in the most recent indictments against Ulbricht).
As Ulbricht's trial approaches, Silk Road's remaining defendants will no doubt be keeping a very close eye on the ongoing narrative around his fate, and what it might mean for their own.