A Jailed Ross Ulbricht Wasn’t Enough For Someone To Access Silk Road Operator’s Account

Ross Ulbricht is in jail. But apparently, someone else was using his Silk Road account after he was arrested.

Who doesn’t really know the man Ross Ulbricht? Well, it turns out a lot of you folks don’t so let’s begin with a two line introduction.

Ross Ulbricht is the man behind “Dread Pirate Roberts”, you may ask what on earth is Dread Pirate Roberts.

Basically, Ross Ulbricht was convicted (a while ago) for operating a Silk Road drug marketplace online. He used the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts for the obvious privacy reasons.

This fact, however, isn’t news. The real news is that attorneys who are representing Ross Ulbricht have revealed that they have managed to unearth concrete evidence that someone (no one knows the name of this someone at the moment) accessed the Dread Pirate Roberts account by logging in at the Silk Road online forums while their client was in jail.

The incidence, attorneys for Ross Ulbricht claim, took place about six weeks after Ross Ulbricht was arrested by law enforcement agencies for running an online drug marketplace. Additionally, it was also revealed that Ross Ulbricht was in the custody of federal authorities when that certain someone accessed his account on the Silk Road online drug marketplace.

However, there is still some doubt about the authenticity of the evidence that was presented by Ross’s lawyers. Mainly, that there is no certain way to find out if the evidence presented is authentic.

With that said, if the evidence provided by Ross’s attorney does turn out to be legitimate then the only logical conclusion would be that Ross wasn’t the only person who had access to the account on Silk Road online drug marketplace.

Moreover, it would also mean that someone else apart from the alleged mastermind behind the huge Dark Web drug marketplace, was involved in running the whole drug business online.

The fact that Ross Ulbricht was in principal arrest when someone accessed the account through a login makes things a bit more complicated.

Ulbricht, at the time of the login, was already in federal custody for his involvement with the Silk Road online drug marketplace operations.

This leads to two possible scenarios. Since Ulbricht was locked up for the duration of Silk Road investigations, whoever accessed the account on Silk Road online drug marketplace either had specialized training, meaning he/she must have been connected with a law enforcement agency or was one of Ulbricht’s partner, in other words, a second “Dread Pirate Roberts.”

But since Ulbricht was convicted and now has to serve a life sentence in prison for his part in the operation of the dark web marketplace, he is pretty much out of the picture.

His attorneys though, think otherwise.

Not the kind of resume you want to put up online on LinkedIn.

Joshua Dratel, who is Ulbricht’s defense attorney, filed a related letter with the United States attorney office in Maryland earlier this week. Maryland is also the place where Ross Ulbricht, after all, that has happened, still has a pending case.

Dratel alleged that Ross’s legal defense team had managed to find a completely separate and new piece of evidence that may help them expose another corrupt law enforcement official who was involved in the Silk Road investigation.

Readers should know that previously, two law enforcement agents were caught and then convicted of an assortment of crimes such as attempts to steal Bitcoin evidence while the investigation was ongoing. One of the law enforcement agents was a Drug Enforcement agent and the other was a Secret Service agent.

Dratel’s letter doesn’t address the previous two “caught” law enforcement agents, though. The primary subject of Dratel’s letter is the unknown someone, which Dratel believes is a corrupt law enforcement agent, who accessed the Silk Road online drug marketplace account while Ulbricht was in jail.

It should be mentioned here that Dratel’s letter still does not identify the alleged corrupt law enforcement agency official. The government official is still unknown but Dratel’s letter filed with the court alleges that the anonymous government official is actually involved with selling information about the Silk Road investigation to Dread Pirate Roberts.

The letter from Dratel also says that after some time the same corrupt government official also deleted the evidence that was related to the actual transaction and the whole arrangement.

According to a report from Motherboard (Motherboard was able to get hold of portions of Dratel’s letter. Dratel’s letter has not been released to the public) that was published in the media recently, it was noted that an unknown person did indeed log into Ross’s (Dread Pirate Roberts) online account on the Dark Web marketplace and interestingly, it was after the original owner, Ross, was taken into custody by law enforcement agencies.

As indicated before, Ross Ulbricht was arrested for his involvement in running an online drug marketplace on October 2, 2013. Moreover, the Silk Road marketplace where he ran the whole business was also shut down on the day.

But websites nowadays have multiple sections and one of those sections is a forum. Silk Road marketplace forum section remained in operation for months after the main website was taken down. According to released reports, the forums were in working order until November 22, 2013.

Will someone else, who accessed Ross’s Silk Road account, also up for life imprisonment?

Ross’s lawyer, on the other hand, say that Dread Pirate Roberts’ account on the Dark Web marketplace was accessed by someone on November 18.

The new details regarding Ross Ulbricht and his account being accessed by someone while he was in jail, were unearthed by forensic analysts. The team of forensic analysts first went through the backups of the Silk Road forums and then studied them rigorously.

The backups of the Silk Road forums were recorded as evidence by the government law enforcement agencies during Ross Ulbricht’s initial trial.

Lindsay Lewis and Dratel (both of whom are Ulbricht’s attorneys) are of the opinion that the government meddling in the case calls into question the entire set of evidence that was presented to the court in order to convict Ulbricht back in 2013.

Lewis, while speaking to a Motherboard reporter over email, said that the importance of the access issue was amplified by the fact that the timestamp for the last log-in by Dread Pirate Roberts on the Silk Road forum was November 18, 2013 which was actually a full six weeks after Ross Ulbricht’s arrest and thus, it had become quite obvious that someone other than Ross Ulbricht was involved in the operation and hence continued to log in to Silk Road forums as Dread Pirate Roberts.

Lewis also pointed out that this particular piece of evidence was not presented to the authorities during a press conference that took place earlier in the week because Ross’s legal defense team was focused more on the evidence of tampering and obviously there was a significant bit as well.

As mentioned before, the evidence puts more doubt over the fact if Dread  Pirate Roberts was indeed the mastermind behind the online Silk Road drug marketplace.

Theories that have gained quite a bit of traction have previously mentioned the possibility of there being more than one entity behind the Silk Road operations and the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts.

People who have been following Ross’s case have previously also theorized that the Dread Pirate Roberts forum account might have been used by more than one person and have paid close attention to the proceedings and progression of the Silk Road drug marketplace case.

Back in 2013, during the original Ross’s Silk Road trial, Dratel (Ross’s attorney) even went as far as to say that his client Ross Ulbricht was actually framed by the real Dread Pirate Roberts, whose identity has still not been made public, assuming anyone even knows it in the first place within the law enforcement agencies or Ross’s legal defense team.

Moreover, it has to be mentioned that Dratel along with Lewis has not provided any more details and information regarding their discovery to the public.

Dratel’s letter that was sent to the United States attorney office in Maryland was essentially aimed at pressuring prosecutors to open up Ross’s case once again and bring up a possibility of opening a discovery process which would (presumably) help Dratel defend his client better by demanding more specific details regarding the case and the Silk Road investigation to be made public..

Does Anyone Know Anything About The Silk Road Administrators?

As of this moment in time, no one really knows anything substantial about other Silk Road administrators.

Additionally, it is also unknown whether other administrators who worked on the Dark Web drug marketplace, Silk Road, access to the login credentials (relevant username and password) for the Dread Pirate Roberts account on the forum.

Were there more “real” Dread Pirate Roberts on the Silk Road online drug marketplace? And how, if at all, law enforcement agents along with other government officials got hold of Dread Pirate Roberts login credentials.

All of these questions still remain unanswered, at least publicly.

Ross probably won’t be getting out anytime soon regardless of what his legal team brings to the court. It is simply too late.

Lewis, continuing the previous interview with Motherboard over email, said that law enforcement agencies and other government organizations had access only to Ross’s laptop and that she didn’t think they had access to the login credentials of the Silk Road Dread Pirate Roberts account.

Dratel, during the press conference that was held in Manhattan on Tuesday, noted that the new evidence that was uncovered by Ross’s legal defense team disclosed this week was not included in the submitted evidence at trial that took place in New York because his legal team did not have sufficient time to prepare and then comprehensively examine the data that was presented to them by the government.

Dratel said that they got six terabytes of information and they was no real way his legal team could review all of that data in the time period that was allowed before the trial.

On the other hand, Ross Ulbricht’s mother, Lyn Ulbricht, recently came out in the media and voice her opinion about how the new discoveries made by Ross’ legal team further dented the credibility of the evidence that was utilized by the government to convict her son and put him into prison for life.

Lyn Ulbricht, while talking to a Motherboard reporter via email, said that there was a record in the database for every account which showed the most recent log-in.

She also stated that nobody knows when that person or persons originally gained access or how many times they logged into Silk Road as Dread Pirate Roberts and that they didn’t know how many Dread Pirate Roberts there really were.

Continuing his email exchange with the Motherboard reporter, she said that it was the nature of digital evidence that it was easily changed, planted or deleted without a trace and that her son or anyone else would get a life sentence without parole based on vulnerable digital evidence especially when it had been corrupted is a travesty of justice.

Of course, Dread Pirate Roberts isn’t the first online user that has tried to sell illegal items on the internet without required sanctions and there is a good possibility that Dread Pirate Roberts won’t be the last operator on Silk Road that engages in selling drugs on dark web drug marketplaces.

As far as the jailed Ross Ulbricht is concerned, all signs say that his legal team did not bring up these issues within the appropriately allotted time and perhaps now, is too little too late.

The defense team should have dedicated more time to studying the material that was presented to them as evidence against Ross Ulbricht and should have brought these concerns back in 2013 when the legal team’s client was going through the actual trial.

However, it remains to be seen if the court accepts these evidence as considerable enough to open up a discovery process for the Silk Road case more than three years after Ross Ulbricht was found guilty and convicted.

What do you think about law enforcement agents planting evidence in order to convict people? Does Ross Ulbricht deserve life imprisonment for selling drugs online? Should the court make more of the evidence that was submitted to it in order to convict Ross Ulbricht public?

Do let us know your thoughts and your opinions regarding Ross Ulbricht and the whole Silk Road investigation by using the comments section below. We would love to hear your thoughts as it allows us to have a productive conversation about important issues related to the cyber security industry.

If you think this story was relevant and made you think twice about engaging in some illegal on the internet or even in the deepest corners of the dark web then subscribe to securitygladiators.com and don’t forget to like the official social media pages.

Zohair A. Zohair is currently a content crafter at Security Gladiators and has been involved in the technology industry for more than a decade. He is an engineer by training and, naturally, likes to help people solve their tech related problems. When he is not writing, he can usually be found practicing his free-kicks in the ground beside his house.
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