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Voice Call Adverts In Any Language At Www. Land For Sale At President M. Click to comment on this story. I imagine that someday I may have a story written about my life and it would be good to have a detailed account of it. Curtis Green was at home, greeting the morning with 64 ounces of Coca-Cola and powdered mini doughnuts. Fingers frosted synthetic white, he was startled to hear someone at the door. It was 11 am, and surprise visits were uncommon at his modest house in Spanish Fork, Utah, a high-desert hamlet in the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains.
Green ambled over, adjusting his camouflage fanny pack. He peeked through the front window and caught a glimpse of the postman hurrying off. The guy was wearing a US Postal Service jacket, but with sneakers and jeans. Also odd was a van Green noticed across the street, one he’d never seen before: white, with no logos or rear windows. It was winter, a day of high clouds and low sun.
A pale haze washed out the white-tipped Spanish Fork Peak rising above the valley. On the porch sat a Priority box—about Bible-sized. His little dogs watched him pick up the mystery package. It was heavy, had no return address, and bore a postmark from Maryland.
Green considered the package and then took it into his kitchen, where he tore it open with scissors, sending up a plume of white powder that covered his face and numbed his tongue. Just then the front door burst open, knocked off its hinges by a SWAT team wielding a battering ram. Quickly the house was flooded by cops in riot gear and black masks, weapons at the ready. There was Green, covered in cocaine and flanked by two Chihuahuas. Officers cuffed Green on the floor while fending off Max, the older Chihuahua, who bared his tiny fangs and bit at their shoelaces. Splayed out on the carpet, Green was eye level with dozens of boots: A large tactical team—SWAT and DEA agents—fanned out through the house. He could hear things crashing, some officers yelling, others whispering to each other.
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He looked at the busted door and thought, Man, that thing was unlocked. The fact was, Green wasn’t just your average Mormon grandpa. Over the past few months he had been handling customer service for the massive online enterprise called Silk Road. Which is why Green found himself surrounded by an interagency task force. He had been hired by Dread Pirate Roberts, the mysterious figure at the center of Silk Road.
DPR, as he was often called, was the proprietor of the site and the visionary leader of its growing community. His relatively frictionless drug market was a serious challenge to law enforcement, who still had no idea who he or she was—or even if DPR was a single person at all. The Feds got Green on his feet. 23,000 cash in his fanny pack and who was on the other end of the encrypted chat dialogs on his computer. Green said, improbably, that the money was his tax return. He also asked for his pain medication.
Instead they escorted him to the door and into a squad car, informing him that he’d be booked for possession of 1,092 grams of cocaine with intent to distribute. Later, under interrogation, Green told the skeptical agents that to charge him and make his name public was a potential death sentence. As Ross slapped the hide on his djembe, a West African drum, Julia Vie sat across the circle. She had a head full of curls, light brown skin, and dark brown eyes. The drum circle was assembled on a lawn at Penn State, where in 2008 Ross was working toward a master’s degree in materials science and engineering. Julia was 18, a free-spirited freshman, and when she noticed Ross she felt a powerful attraction. Ross studied crystallography, working on thin-film growth.
One day he made a large, flat blue crystal, affixed it to a ring, and gave it to Julia. She had no idea how her boyfriend could make a crystal, but she knew she was in love. Ross had grown up in Austin, Texas, and had always been smart and charming. He’d been the kind of kid who was an Eagle Scout—and let his friends give him a mohawk on a whim. He was raised in a tight family. Ross’ parents had built a series of rustic, solar-powered bamboo houses there, near an isolated point break where Ross learned to surf. Ross earned a scholarship to the University of Texas at Dallas and majored in physics.
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From there he landed a graduate scholarship at Penn State, where he excelled as usual. But he wasn’t happy with the drudgery of lab research. Since college he’d been exploring psychedelics and reading Eastern philosophy. At Penn State, Ross talked openly about switching fields. He posted online about his disenchantment with science—and his new interest in economics. He’d come to see taxation and government as a form of coercion, enforced by the state’s monopoly on violence.
His thinking was heavily influenced by Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, a totem of the modern American libertarian orthodoxy. According to von Mises, a citizen must have economic freedom to be politically or morally free. And Ross wanted to be free. When he finished his master’s in 2009, he moved back to Austin and bought Julia a plane ticket to join him. She left school, and they got a cheap apartment together. It was cramped, but they were young and dreamy. Both imagined they might get married.
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Ross tried day trading, but it didn’t go well. Their relationship turned stormy, with frequent breakups. In the summer of 2010, they split up yet again. I had left my promising career as a scientist to be an investment adviser and entrepreneur and came up empty-handed. Ross felt ashamed, but not long afterward Palmertree got a job in Dallas, leaving Good Wagon to Ross. For years, all he’d wanted was to be in charge of something. In the Good Wagon warehouse, Ross oversaw five part-time college students sorting, logging, and organizing the 50,000 books on shelves he built himself.
That December was Good Wagon’s best month, clearing 10 grand. But by the end of 2010, the new CEO of Good Wagon was looking beyond the book business. During his forays into trading, Ross had discovered bitcoin, the digital cryptocurrency. The value of bitcoin—based only on market factors, unattached to any central bank—aligned with his advancing libertarian philosophy. To that end Ross had a flash of insight. Like most libertarians, Ross believed that drug use was a personal choice.
And like all people paying attention, he observed that the war on drugs was a complete failure. The natural merchandise for his new enterprise would be drugs. Ever the capable scientist, Ross decided to cultivate his own psilocybin mushrooms as a starter product. He was spending time with Julia again, while struggling with programming his site and still running Good Wagon.
Then, one night in early 2011, Good Wagon collapsed. Ross was working late, alone in the warehouse, when he heard an enormous crash—the sound of the library falling apart. When Ross broke the news to Palmertree, he also admitted that his heart wasn’t in Good Wagon anymore. They agreed to close the company, with no hard feelings. Silk Road went live in mid-January 2011. A few days later came the first sale. Ross eventually sold all 10 pounds of his mushrooms, but other vendors started joining.
He was handling all the transactions by hand, which was time-consuming but exhilarating. It wasn’t long before enough vendors and users made it a functioning, growing marketplace. Just before the launch, facing a new year and a blank slate, Ross had resolved to change his life. I am creating a year of prosperity and power beyond what I have ever experienced before.
Silk Road is going to become a phenomenon and at least one person will tell me about it, unknowing that I was its creator. Mark Force IV was half-asleep when the postal inspector started talking about something weird in the parcel sorters. We are having problems with drugs coming through the mail. Force was a Baltimore-based DEA agent, and he was at a regional interagency meeting, a periodic intel show-and-tell with analysts from the FBI, the DEA, the IRS, and Homeland Security.
This was the kind of thing he was looking for. He had burned out on the grind of arresting street dealers. At 6 feet and 200 pounds, Force was an athletic guy, and coming up through the agency he’d loved the physical thrill of bursting through a door at 6 am in Doc Martens and a tactical vest, clearing some broke-down row house on some broke-down block and catching some dealer in the bathroom, cuffing the guy before he could wipe his ass. By the time Force heard about Silk Road, it had been around nearly a year. And that’s what it looked like: a well-organized community marketplace, complete with profiles, listings, and transaction reviews. Everything was anonymous, and shipments often went through the regular old postal service. No need for fake names—you put your real address, and if any one asks, you just say you didn’t order all that heroin!
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Most shipments made it to happy customers. Then there were the prescription meds, everything from Oxycontin and Xanax to Fentanyl and Dilaudid. Silk Road’s product descriptions and user ratings amounted to an encyclopedic information source. Law enforcement was caught with its tactical pants down. Various agencies had sniffed around Silk Road in the summer of 2011 but gotten nowhere. Force saw potential but didn’t even know where to begin. Months later, in January 2012, he got some good news from his supervisor.
Homeland Security was assembling a task force for a full-on Silk Road case. Most of the agents’ eyes glazed over, but, yes, Force wanted in. The task force that formed to take on Silk Road—Operation Marco Polo—was based out of the Baltimore Homeland Security Investigations office. Another agent showed Force how to navigate Silk Road. He quickly saw that it had a vocal mastermind, the revered figure known as Dread Pirate Roberts. It was a clever touch, borrowing the name from The Princess Bride, in which the pirate was a mythical character, inhabited by the wearer of the mask.
Then again, Monsegur was not really a visitor. It was past 1 am one night in the spring of 2011, and he was being led to the back of the empty bullpen by Chris Tarbell, a young agent who had arrested Monsegur earlier that night in the Jacob Riis Houses on the Lower East Side. Monsegur was an enormous Puerto Rican, ears studded with diamonds, who grew up in the projects. Tarbell had always had the cop in him, even when his parents thought he was going to be a doctor. In college he was a powerlifter, an unusual sight at James Madison University, a preppy school in the Shenandoah Valley. He already looked like a cop: big, with a short coif on top of that baby face. By the time Tarbell finished college, he sensed where policing was headed and got a master’s in computer science.
He didn’t understand programming at first. He showed a talent for uncovering digital trails. Few could decipher those secrets, and Tarbell liked being one of them. After a few years in forensics, Tarbell told his wife, Sabrina, he wanted to officially join the Bureau.
But catching the elusive Sabu made Tarbell’s name at the Bureau. Online, Sabu’s credibility among hackers was unassailable. Nine months later dozens of arrests were made, severely disabling two of the world’s biggest hacker groups. He took an interest in Tor, the encryption software that allowed users to visit sites such as Silk Road. Tor’s protocol is a kind of digital invisibility cloak, hiding users and the sites they visit.
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Tarbell briefed his supervisor, who briefed his supervisor, and so on, until they wound up in the office of the SAC, or special agent in charge. Above the SAC is the assistant director in charge—yes, an endless source of amusement when complaining about red tape in the FBI is to talk about how the SAC is just below ADIC. It took a couple of sales pitches to soften up the SAC, but in February 2013, Tarbell opened the FBI’s first Tor case: Operation Onion Peeler. By now Silk Road was a juicy target. Many agencies were working on it, but with no success. Homeland Security Investigations had a case open. The IRS had looked into it.
There was Force’s DEA case in Baltimore. And the New York DEA, which asked Tarbell for technical advice. They were using traditional drug investigation techniques, but Tarbell knew this wasn’t an operation where you could flip people up the chain, because there was no chain. You had to go straight to the top. The beach at Bondi, just south of Sydney, sloped down to a gorgeous waterline. For Ross, the waves were among the many advantages of leaving Austin in late 2011 to spend some time in Australia with his older sister, Cally.
He quickly made friends there, a lively group that went out drinking, invited him to warehouse parties, and met up to go surfing. Ross had worked that morning but was in the water by afternoon. It was nice, the portable life. And it was made possible by his flourishing online drug bazaar. Silk Road’s usage had exploded in June of that year, after a story on Gawker brought the site mainstream attention.
After that, traffic grew so fast that Ross needed technical support to maintain the site, deal with transactions, and add features like automatic payments and a better feedback system. To outsiders he seemed his normal genial self, but in his digital domain he was frazzled, trying to keep Silk Road running. Sure it was a little crude, but it worked! Rewriting the site was the most stressful couple of months I’ve ever experienced.
Early on, Ross had turned to Richard Bates, a college friend who was now a software engineer in Austin. Bates helped Ross with basic programming and tended to crises like the site’s first major outage. When Silk Road took off, Ross tried to hire Bates, but Bates already had a programming job. Driven by the failure of his previous businesses, he was determined to make Silk Road succeed. He disappeared into his work and started professionalizing his organization. He and Julia broke up again that summer. Part of the problem was that Ross was grappling with what hackers call operational security, or opsec.
To completely seal his two identities from one another, Ross realized, would require a kind of ruthless and elaborate secrecy. He appealed to Bates to stay quiet. Later, Ross told his friend that he’d sold Silk Road to a mysterious buyer. He also struggled with learning how to lie. This alone constituted a security leak. Jessica and felt an urge to reveal himself.