New chat logs unearthed by Ulbricht’s defense reveal an ongoing conversation between the “Dread Pirate Roberts,” Ulbricht’s pseudonym, and “alpacino,” an agent connected with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.
Previously believed to be one of two corrupt government agents already discovered to be involved in the case, these new chat logs, hidden away on a backup server for an obscure subdirectory for the Silk Road’s forums, suggest that “alpacino” was a double agent, tipping Ulbricht off to government investigations in exchange for payment.
Additionally, since those chat logs were not included in the original evidence shared by the prosecution and the defense, it may indicate that the evidence had been tampered with by law enforcement.
Ulbricht, who operated the site, faces life in prison. His defense continues to attempt to overturn his conviction, and evidence of even more corruption than previously believed may help his case.
Silk Road case mired in ethical concerns
The investigation of Silk Road and Ulbricht’s prosecution have been mired in corruption and theft by government agents involved, a fact that Ulbricht’s defense has used to its advantage. Before this most recent revelation, two agents, former Drug Enforcement Administration agent Carl Force IV and former Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges, were caught stealing Bitcoin from Silk Road. Force “confiscated” hundreds of thousands of dollars worth, which he then transferred to a series of his own personal accounts. Bridges was left with possession of the private keys, which he used to seize Bitcoin and was allowed to continue to do so by the Secret Service, even though the Department of Justice had strongly advised that the Bitcoin be moved to avoid such theft.
Beyond the ongoing appeal for Ulbricht, the Silk Road case is far from over. Gary Davis, the alleged administrator of Silk Road, has been ordered by an Irish court to be extradited to the United States for criminal prosecution. Davis is appealing this decision, ensuring that the saga will continue.
Being on the cutting edge of tech is a risky business
Innovators in the field of online business, particularly those like Ulbricht who are dabbling in areas not well-defined by existing legal structures, can find themselves at risk of running into trouble with law enforcement. Last month, Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer was arrested on charges related to prostitution and sex trafficking because of services allowed to be advertised on his site. Former BitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem was imprisoned over money laundering charges related to business conducted with Silk Road.
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom similarly ran into trouble with the U.S. government on the grounds that his site violated copyright law, and is still fighting extradition from New Zealand. Even so, Dotcom is busy working away on Megaupload’s relaunch, having raised over $1 mln so far.