Administrator of Silk Road website and drug vendor plead guilty to drug conspiracy
BALTIMORE — An administrator and vendor of the Silk Road website pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with attempt to distribute drugs, following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Curtis Green, aka Flush and chronicpain, 47, of Utah, pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to distribute and possess with attempt to distribute cocaine. On Nov. 5, in a related case, Jacob Theodore George IV, 32, of Edgewood, Md., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute drugs, including heroin.
"HSI Baltimore special agents arrested Jacob George, who was the first vendor on Silk Road selling illegal drugs to be arrested," said HSI Special Agent in Charge William Winter. "Thereafter, HSI Baltimore created and led the Baltimore Silk Road Task Force to combat the illicit activities of this digital black market website. Subsequently, Curtis Green was arrested after he was identified as an administrator and cocaine distributor on Silk Road. Last month, HSI assisted in the identification and arrest of Silk Road's operator Ross William Ulbricht aka DPR. HSI will continue working with our domestic and international law enforcement partners to identify and arrest individuals who are conducting criminal activities by using networks and digital currency designed to provide anonymity, such as Tor and bitcoins."
"People who believe they can commit crimes anonymously using the internet should reconsider," said U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.
"Special Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are highly trained to locate narcotic traffickers and arrest them regardless of their location," stated DEA Baltimore District Office Assistant Special Agent in Charge Gary Tuggle. "Special Agents acting in an undercover capacity were able to locate narcotic traffickers operating in cyberspace during the course of this investigation. This sends a clear message to traffickers that even in cyberspace DEA will find you."
According to his plea agreement, beginning in November 2012, Green worked for the creator and operator of Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, whom Green only knew by his alias, Dread Pirate Roberts. Silk Road was an online, international marketplace that allowed users to anonymously buy and sell illegal drugs, false identifications, and other contraband over the Internet. Ulbricht collected a fee for each transaction on the website. Green's responsibilities included responding to questions and complaints from buyers and sellers, resolving disputes between buyers and sellers, and investigating possible law enforcement activity on Silk Road. As part of his role as an administrator, Green had the ability to see messages Silk Road users sent to each other, to see the details of each transaction on Silk Road, and to see the accounts - including financial information - of Silk Road users, including the accounts of Ulbricht.
In September 2011, HSI Baltimore special agents initiated an investigation into the Silk Road website. Thereafter, the Baltimore Silk Road Task Force was created to address the contraband being sold on Silk Road.
Starting in April 2012, a DEA undercover agent in Maryland (the UC), began communicating with Ulbricht about selling illegal drugs on Silk Road. That agent was one of several assigned to the Baltimore Silk Road Task Force. The UC claimed to be a smuggler who specialized in moving substantial quantities of illegal drugs. In December 2012, Ulbricht set out to find a drug dealer on Silk Road who could purchase large quantities of drugs from the UC and directed his administrators, including Green, to assist. Green assisted the UC to establish contact with a buyer, who was an established seller of drugs on Silk Road (the Vendor). The UC and the vendor negotiated a deal for one kilogram of cocaine for approximately $27,000 in Bitcoin, a digital currency that has no association with a national government, is difficult to track, and easy to move online.
Without the knowledge of either Ulbricht or the UC, Green agreed to act as a middle-man for the Vendor and take delivery of drugs. As a result, the Vendor provided Green's address to the UC as the place to which the cocaine was to be delivered. On Jan. 17, an undercover U.S. Postal Inspector delivered the cocaine to Green at his Utah residence. Shortly after Green accepted delivery of the cocaine, special agents of HSI, DEA, U.S. Postal Inspectors and the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) executed a search warrant at Green's residence and recovered the kilogram of cocaine. USSS agents also conducted a forensic examination of Green's computers and digital media seized during the search.
According to Jacob George's plea agreement, from at least November 2011 to Jan. 18, 2012, George sold drugs via Silk Road. George made contact with buyers via Silk Road, accepted payment electronically through Silk Road, and shipped drugs via the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to buyers throughout the United States and in foreign countries. The owner and operator of Silk Road, Ulbricht, collected a fee for each transaction on the website. George acquired drugs from two primary sources: he purchased some drugs including heroin from drug dealers in the Baltimore metropolitan area and he purchased synthetic drugs including methylone from suppliers in China and had those drugs shipped to him.
Green faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and George faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake scheduled sentencing for Green Feb. 28, 2014 and for George Feb. 20, 2014.
Ulbricht, aka Dread Pirate Roberts and DPR, 29, of San Francisco has been indicted in Maryland on charges of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, attempted witness murder and using interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire. He faces a maximum of 40 years in prison for the drug distribution conspiracy; a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for attempted witness murder and a maximum of 10 years in prison for using interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire. No court appearance in Maryland has been scheduled.
Ulbricht faces a related indictment in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The investigation was conducted by HSI Baltimore; DEA; U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Washington Division; U.S. Secret Service, Baltimore Field Office and the IRS Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office.
This Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin S. Herring.