5 Opsec Errors That Caused Cryptocurrency Users to Lose Everything
‘Redandwhite’ Indicted in Black and White
Silk Road is a saga that just won’t end. Every few months, a new prosecution or a trove of freshly discovered clues adds further intrigue to the deep web’s most notorious drugs marketplace. Despite the conviction of Ross Ulbricht in 2015, there remains a number of questions concerning his stewardship of Silk Road. One of the most puzzling pertains to the murder for hire allegations made against Ross Ulbricht. Ulbricht was never charged or convicted for these at trial and evidence shows that no assassinations were ever carried out. The arrest of James Ellingson, 42, by Canadian authorities last month, however, has shed some light on the matter.
According to prosecutors, Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR), the handle for the lead admin of Silk Road, was duped and defrauded multiple times by Ellingson, who operated under several pseudonyms on the Silk Road marketplace. While numerous opsec errors Ulbricht allegedly made would likely have led to his arrest anyway, Ellingson, or ‘redandwhite’ to use one of his personas, played a pivotal role in the government’s unproven allegations, helping to consign Ulbricht to life behind bars and ruining Silk Road for the thousands of buyers and sellers who had conducted business with minimal friction up until then.
One Man With a Multitude of Handles
In 2013, redandwhite contacted DPR offering to solve a problem with another user, Lucydrop. Lucydrop was blackmailing DPR by threatening to release compromising information on thousands of Silk Road vendors. DPR consented to redandwhite murdering Lucydrop, by which point DPR had information that would lead to redandwhite’s arrest years later. As a Canadian non-public affidavit released earlier this month alleged, “Redandwhite communicated with and received bitcoin payments from Mr. Ulbricht, in connection with purported attempts to begin selling narcotics on the Silk Road. A laptop recovered from Mr. Ulbricht contained a file labelled “save_red,” which housed multiple photographs referenced in the communications.” They continued:
The photographs were sent by redandwhite and consisted of packaged drugs and Canadian currency. Some of the photographs showed a man in front of a building holding an envelope with a numerical code. Based on a comparative analysis with Mr. Ellingson’s driver’s license, authorities have identified him as the person in the photograph.
The most astonishing revelation to have emerged from the case is that Ellingson appears to have been the cause of and purported solution to DPR’s problems, donning many different hats to extort DPR multiple times over. As All Things Vice blog summarizes, “DPR had apparently paid bitcoin worth around $650,000 … to a slick-talking shyster and opened himself up to charges of conspiracy to commit five new murders that had never taken place. Tony76 [one of redandwhite’s previous Silk Road accounts] first robbed hundreds of Silk Road customers to the tune of six figures in April 2012, scammed them again for a similar amount under the name Lucydrop in 2013, then attempted to blackmail Dread Pirate Roberts with customers’ addresses he had gathered while selling as Tony76 and Lucydrop. When that failed, he extracted the money out of Silk Road by pretending to be a hitman, carrying out the murders of himself and his alter egos.
There was no witness to testify that Ross Ulbricht acted as DPR, and it is commonly believed many used that handle. No charge against Ulbricht of planned violence was made in New York and all charges in Maryland were dismissed. However, given the level of deception he was up against, both from Ellingson and from law enforcement, whose chief investigating officers committed a litany of crimes including blackmail and extortion, Ross Ulbricht never stood a chance. A few bad apples from the criminal and law enforcement fraternities were all it took to seal Ulbricht’s fate.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.
Need to calculate your bitcoin holdings? Check our tools section.