Meet the convicted Australian Silk Road vendor who now faces up to 25 years in jail

February 1, 2013 — 5 Comments

After being arrested in July 2012, Australian Silk Road customer Paul Leslie Howard has pleaded guilty to two charges of “importing a marketable quantity of a border-controlled drug – which carries a maximum of 25 years jail – and to trafficking controlled drugs. Howard, who also pleaded guilty to a charge of possessing 32 controlled weapons, was remanded in custody for sentencing next week,” reports The Age.

The defendant said he was turned on to the site by an article written by journalist @EileenOrmsby, who regularly covers the Road on her blog as well as in Australian newspapers and journals. Her October 2012 article Silk Road: The eBay of Illegal Drugs was cited during the trial.

Howard’s time on Silk Road began on April 19, 2012 when he registered as Shadh1. He immediately set up a vendor’s account and made a forum post advertising his services:

Hey guys , I’m just starting out here. I’m Aus based and only shipping to Aus so as not to roach on anyone’s turf  :). I’ll be basically doing dutch speed and peruvian charlie to start and branch into more as I get coin back in my pocket. I source from both sr and non sr vendors but I prefer the sr system as far as selling securely is concerned ! So yeh that’s me story and I’m keen for any tips or just some chat from you guys as I’m still learning !

Silk Road users quickly noted that his prices (for example, $500 for a gram of cocaine) were extremely high but he responded that Australia always has higher prices for these products. Soon, user Om enthusiastically reviewed his DMT:

Well I had shadh1’s DMT on saturday, me and a mate divided it in two and put it in a electronic vaporiser, quite smooth, not harsh or like burning plastic, but also really not a great taste… after the first breath nothing happened, then after the second… WOW.

No break-through the to machine elves land or anything but it was AMAZING. Everything was colour-cycling and pulsing in a way unlike any acid, or even acid+NOS combo, and it was just so euphoric… and yet so short-lived!

You able to get any more shadh1?

Mixed but generally positive reviews of Howard’s product began to pile up. Several users were vocally uncomfortable around Howard, with user itsmagic going so far as to say he was weary because “I have a feeling you don’t know 100% of what goes on around here, and that makes me feel uneasy. For a seller, I would assume they’d be very confident in knowing this whole system very well, and I just don’t feel like you know that. You don’t seem to have that personality of a seller either.”

Despite some general uneasiness about Howard, more and more positive reviews began to accumulate including a novel-length trip report from user cosmic jim. We can spare ourselves the majority of the report but here’s the meat of what Howard’s DMT was capable of according to Jim:

Visions of the horrible, teeth shattering, mind numbing scale of gods infinite fractal nature. I was scared. The primal urge of wanting my mother. A cat in the room was sitting closeby and I prayed for it to look after me until the experience was over. It answered my prayer. As I was laying another cat walked up behind my back purring with warmth. I understood that these experiences are likely induced by other local organized demi-god intelligences possibly for the acceleration of the raising of human consciousness. Surely nothing seems unreasonable at this scale. The horrible scale. After the hourish was up, the dmt body feeling was gone and I felt much better. I went to see my friends again. For the rest of the night I was a beacon of pure joy and compassion.

The following day, Jim woke up, took another pill and proceeded to gain “Christ consciousness” as everyone he spoke to fell in love with him. This was the most outstandingly positive (and just plain outstanding) review Howard would receive on Silk Road. “I was just jesus for a while, ok?”

Howard sold a diverse mixture of drugs from then on and garnered more positive reviews, building a respectable customer base. The last post in Howard’s dedicated thread was a happy review of his heroin. The satisfied customer promised that he’d buy again.

By mid-July, Howard’s home had been raided and Australian police released a triumphant note about the arrest.

“Criminals are attempting to exploit the international mail system through online networks, but the recent arrest demonstrates that we are one step ahead of them,” said Australian Federal Police Manager Crime Operations Peter Sykora.

“Prosecutor Morgan Brown said Australian Customs and Border Protection Service officers in Melbourne and Sydney examined mail articles addressed to Howard at his Brunswick West home”, reported The Age.

Mailing to island nations is a particularly difficult endeavor as their borders are guarded relatively effectively. In fact, an intercepted package is far less daunting to Silk Road than the prospect of governments succesfully monitoring Tor or Bitcoin’s anonymizing services. The general consensus among the Tor community is that the Australian police are not “one step ahead” of Tor or Silk Road. The specifics of exactly how Howard was caught remain unknown.

In the wake of the case, Silk Road’s twitter is now warning customers against following its own account or that of journalist @EileenOrmsby while using real names.

Whether this is just a general cautionary measure or a reaction to a specific threat remains to be seen.

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