Archives For Silk Road

At the Daily Dot, an unprecedented interview with one of Silk Road 1.0’s biggest heroin and cocaine dealers.

By our third phone call, Steven Lloyd Sadler was a fugitive.

Facing federal charges for drug trafficking and distribution, Sadler decided he’d rather skip the trial and jail sentence altogether. He was pulling away from Seattle, where he was charged, and we talked for hours. He began that particular conversation on speakerphone, attempting to circumvent the state’s law prohibiting the use of cellphones while driving, but noisy interference forced him to pick up the call.

He shrugged as he put his phone to his ear, his other hand taking a firm grip on the wheel.

“I hope I don’t get pulled over.”

I’d spent hours talking to Sadler, one of Silk Road’s most popular heroin and cocaine dealers, before and after he made the decision to run. By late October, he was out on bond, seemingly as a reward for helping Homeland Security in a larger investigation into the infamous Deep Web black market.

The conditions of the bond were clear: Sadler wasn’t allowed leave the state of Washington. He was also strictly forbidden from dealing or using drugs.

“Hold on,” he cut in at one point. “I have to buy some cocaine, can I call you back?”

Five minutes later, he was back on the line, as chatty as ever.

At the time, there was no clear direction forward. Maybe he’d go to Las Vegas on a wild bender. Maybe he’d try to start his drug empire over in Los Angeles. Maybe he’d visit old friends in his hometown who didn’t know about his criminal enterprise.

Sadler talked through each potential scenario, as if working through them in his mind, looking for possibilities and pitfalls. In roughly 10 hours of phone calls over the course of several weeks, Sadler told me almost everything.

Then he dropped off the grid.

Read more at the Daily Dot.

A new study, reported at the Daily Dot.

There are many ways to measure success. For a Deep Web black market famous for its wide selection of drugs, one number trumps all: How many drug users put your product in their bodies?

Silk Road, the recently shut down black market that ruled them all, was enormous. According to a new study titled “Use of Silk Road, the online drug marketplace, in the UK, Australia and the USA,” 18 percent of American drug users got high thanks to Silk Road. This is the first big study of a large sample of drug users who have bought from the Deep Web.

The study was just published in Addiction, a peer-reviewed scientific journal and one of the world’s most influential scientific publications focusing on drugs and psychiatry.

Across a survey of 9,470 respondents in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, the study by the Australian trio of Monica Barratt, Jason Ferris, and Adam Winstock found that Silk Road penetrated most deeply in America. 65 percent of Americans had heard of Silk Road while 18 percent had used drugs bought on the site. 40 percent of British respondents had heard of it and 10 percent had used drugs from it—which is to say, across these two countries, a full quarter of all people who had heard of Silk Road said they’ve used drugs from it.

More on the Daily Dot.

Even though dozens of black markets have come and gone since the original Silk Road fell, few have tried anything new. Virtually all of them have cloned the original in nearly every way, selling themselves to the public on the idea that it was only Ross Ulbricht’s personal mistakes that brought down the empire.

A new group believes there’s a different path to take toward black-market nirvana.

One surviving black market is doing something fundamentally different than its competitors.

Instead of relying solely on the Tor anonymizing network, a new site called “The Marketplace” can be found only on I2P, an anonymizing network launched in 2003 that exists separately from Tor.

A look at the way “The Marketplace” looks to change Deep Web black markets at the Daily Dot.

At least six more arrests for Silk Road vendors and buyers are in the works according to a Wired article citing anonymous law enforcement agents. The continued police action comes as Ross Ulbricht, accused of being the founder of the Deep Web black market, sits in a Brooklyn, New York jail awaiting a Nov. 21 bail hearing.

More at Wired:

Investigators say there are at least half a dozen other arrests currently in the works. In addition, U.S. Postal Inspectors and Customs and Border Protection agents have seized at least 3,000 suspicious packages that authorities say can be tied to Silk Road.

Federal agents say the use of Tor and Bitcoin were major obstacles for them and that investigating the site was “uncharted territory” that involved a reversal of their usual investigative methods. Instead of starting with probable cause against a specific suspect who is already identified and then obtaining a search warrant to collect more evidence, the investigation of Silk Road involved collecting evidence from the site first and then trying to identify individuals.

“Even though we had these obstacles, we were able to still make these arrests,” one official says.

BBC just commissioned a documentary on the Deep Web black market Silk Road. According to Broadcastnow.co.uk, the film will be coproduced by Vice and Raw TV, precisely the two outfits one expects to present a story like this.

More on Daily Dot.

When the Deep Web black market Silk Road was seized by the FBI last week, the Bitcoin community braced for impact. The difficult-to-trace digital currency was perceived to be most popular on the underground drug emporium, so many users feared a crash was coming.

They were right—but as quickly as the crash came, it’s now gone. When Silk Road fell, Bitcoins cost $132, according to BitcoinAverage. They rapidly fell to $113 as news spread. The recovery was almost as rapid: Two days after the arrest, the price was back up to $129.

Today, Bitcoins cost an average of $134 across 10 of the biggest digital currency exchanges.

Read more at the Daily Dot, just do it already.

The first memorial to Silk Road comes, fittingly, on the face of ecstasy pills. On Sheep Marketplace, a vendor named TheHeineken is selling is selling five 300 milligram ecstasy pills with the trademark Silk Road camel on one side of the pill and the letters S/R on the other end. It’ll cost you about $162 to place an order.

Read more at the Daily Dot.

This is a necessary update to the history of Silk Road that I wrote almost a year ago.

Check it out.

Before Chen’s article, Silk Road had hundreds of users. That soon jumped an order of magnitude, to over 10,000. That crush of visitors occasionally brought down the site’s servers. And it also encouraged scammers, ready to prey on curious newbies who, more often than not, didn’t know how to adequately protect their anonymity and money.

A still-volatile Bitcoin made doing business even riskier. Between June and November 2011, the digital currency’s value rose to $31 then plummeted to $2 as it adjusted to the Silk Road rush, making it difficult for sellers to make money. Security difficulties facing the Web’s largest Bitcoin exchange didn’t make business any easier.

To help balance against Bitcoin’s volatility, Dread Pirate Roberts introduced a “hedged escrow” option buyers and sellers in May 2011. For the rest of Silk Road’s lifespan, bitcoins were converted into U.S. dollars after a purchase, held in an escrow, and then changed back as the transaction was finalized, thus shielding both sides significantly from whatever currency volatility may creep up.

Curiosity soon turned into cash. New users made orders in droves and turned Silk Road into a singularly successful enterprise. Bitcoin launched on an upward trajectory as it crept toward stability.

A profile of Silk Road’s premium heroin king and the charges against the Washington man accused of being him.

Nod’s black-tar heroin had a certain sweetness to it. Many customers fell in love at first taste.

After all, they’d been through a lot. Before Nod, many of Silk Road’s previous heroin vendors were notoriously unreliable. Old dealers on the Deep Web black market—accessible only through the Tor anonymizer—had a tendency to take good money and never deliver the product. It made for bad dope sickness and dissatisfied customers.

Nod, on the other hand, shipped sweetness express to the veins—or to the lungs if you preferred to smoke it and chase the dragon. It’s no wonder Nod quickly became one of Silk Road’s most celebrated dealer of black-tar heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines.

Last week, as part of a larger movement against Silk Road’s most prominent users, Steve Lloyd Sadler, a 40-year-old man from Bellevue, Wa., was arrested by the Department of Homeland Security. The DHS accuses Sadler of being Nod and say he built a digital empire in the Pacific Northwest that ranked him among the top one percent of all vendors.

Regardless of whether or not Sadler is Nod—he’s presumed innocent, of course—we have a unique opportunity here. Thanks to records on Silk Road and the DHS’s criminal complaint, we can put a detailed account of Nod’s career up to scrutiny alongside law enforcement’s own version of events. Combined, we’re able to tell an unusually detailed story of the rise and fall of one of Silk Road’s most celebrated vendors and the man who is now taking the fall. Are they one and the same?

Read more at the Daily Dot.

Silk Road, also known as ‘the eBay for drugs,’ has been seized by U.S. federal agents, who also arrested the mastermind behind the site. This was intended to curtail organized online drug sales. But, does this approach cause more harm than good?

I was on Huffington Post Live’s discussion on the end of Silk Road. It was really, really interesting.

Hosted by: Ricky Camilleri
Guests:

  • Brian O’Dea @brianodea (Toronto, Canada) Infamous Drug Smuggler; Author of ‘High, Confessions of An International Drug Summgler’
  • Patrick Howell O’Neill @chobopeon (Brooklyn, NY) Reporter at Daily Dot
  • Joe Schrank @JoeSchrank (Brooklyn, NY) Co-founder of TheFix.com; Interventionist And Addiction Expert
  • Holmes Wilson @FightFortheFtr (Worcester, MA) Co-founder of Fight For The Future