The People Involved
Schumer, senior member of the Senate Finance and Banking Committees, called for a crackdown on Bitcoin and Silk Road a few months after Silk Road was launched. When Ross was arrested, he publicly congratulated then Attorney General Eric Holder, violating Ross’s presumption of innocence and prejudicing prospective jurors. Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney prosecuting Ross, served as Schumer’s Chief Counsel for nearly five years. Judge Katherine Forrest, who presided over Ross’s trial and sentencing, was recommended to the bench by Schumer.
Richard Bates (Ross’s college friend)
Bates attended the University of Texas at Dallas with Ross. He studied computer science and later worked for Paypal and eBay. Bates testified at trial that Ross approached him for help with Silk Road soon after launching the site. Bates kept his distance from the project but revealed that Ross handed Silk Road off to someone else prior to mid-November 2011.
Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR) (screen name of the owner/operator of Silk Road)
DPR was the name of several online accounts that controlled the operation of Silk Road. There is proof, some precluded during trial and more discovered post trial, that different people controlled the accounts at various times.
Jared Der-Yeghiayan (HSI Chicago Special Agent and lead Silk Road investigator)
Der-Yeghiayan was the first federal agent to investigate Silk Road. He identified Mark Karpeles and Ashley Barr as the ones behind the site and the DPR accounts. He spent years gathering evidence and worked thousands of hours undercover as one of DPR’s employees, but his investigation was derailed by corrupt agents Shaun Bridges and Carl Force and AUSA Richard Kay after Special Agent Michael McFarland leaked details of Der-Yeghiayan’s investigation to them.
Mark Karpeles (original law enforcement target)
Karpeles owned Mt. Gox, the only major bitcoin exchange in operation before Silk Road was shut down. He and Ashley Barr were identified by Special Agent Jared Der-Yeghiayan as the ones behind Silk Road and the DPR accounts. However, Karpeles was tipped off that he was a target by corrupt agents Shaun Bridges and Carl Force, and AUSA Richard Kay. He gave Kay someone else to target as DPR in exchange for legal immunity.
Michael McFarland (HSI Baltimore Special Agent)
McFarland tried to take control of the Silk Road investigation from Jared Der-Yeghiayan. He leaked the identity of its target, Mark Karpeles, to corrupt agents Carl Force and Shaun Bridges in his task force in Baltimore. McFarland later hid a meeting between AUSA Richard Kay and Karpeles’s attorneys in which Karpeles offered someone else to target as DPR in exchange for legal immunity.
Force was a member of Special Agent Michael McFarland‘s Silk Road task force. He used his position in the investigation and the assistance of another corrupt agent, Shaun Bridges, to steal funds from Silk Road vendors, extort funds from DPR, sell DPR inside law enforcement information, and potentially change passwords, pin numbers, site content and control DPR’s account. Together, the agents framed Curtis Green for theft of bitcoins from Silk Road and faked his death, allegedly at the behest of DPR. Force pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison.
Shaun Bridges (corrupt Secret Service/NSA Baltimore Special Agent)
Bridges was a member of Michael McFarland‘s Silk Road task force, and worked for the NSA. He “went rogue” and, with the help of AUSA Richard Kay. alerted Mark Karpeles that he was under investigation. Later, assisted by corrupt agent Carl Force, he gained access to Silk Road’s administrative functions, stole from the top vendors on the site, framed Curtis Green for it, and faked Green’s death, allegedly at the behest of DPR. A technical expert, Bridges had the ability to change Silk Road passwords, pin numbers, site content and commandeer accounts, including DPR’s. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Curtis Green (Silk Road administrator)
Green was entrapped and arrested by corrupt agents Carl Force and Shaun Bridges, and gave them access to his administrative accounts on Silk Road. They used this access to steal from the top vendors on the site, framed Green for it, and faked his death, allegedly at the behest of DPR.
Justin Herring (Baltimore AUSA)
Herring was the AUSA over the Baltimore Silk Road task force. He interrogated Curtis Green after Green’s arrest, and blamed him for the theft of bitcoins from Silk Road, which were actually stolen by corrupt agents Shaun Bridges and Carl Force. Along with his supervisor, Michael McFarland, and Bridges, Herring hid the fact that Richard Kay met with Mark Karpeles‘s attorneys to discuss targeting someone other than Karpeles in exchange for legal immunity.
DeathFromAbove (corrupt law enforcement account)
Corrupt DEA agent Carl Force created the DeathFromAbove Silk Road account and used it to extort DPR. Force used pieces of Special Agent Jared Der-Yeghiayan‘s investigation as leverage, telling DPR he had identified him and was going to take revenge for having Curtis Green killed.
Christopher W. Tarbell (FBI New York Special Agent)
Tarbell claimed to have found the Silk Road server through a leak in the site’s configuration, but his explanation was debunked by cyber security experts worldwide. He led the team that arrested Ross and was deeply involved in the investigation, yet he was never called as a witness at trial.
Serrin Turner (New York AUSA and lead prosecutor)
Turner underwrote the illegal pen-trap orders and search warrants used to seize the digital evidence he used to convict Ross. He hid the existence of corrupt agent Shaun Bridges and suppressed Carl Force‘s involvement in the investigation. He was instrumental in suppressing evidence and testimony implicating Mark Karpeles and the existence of multiple DPRs, and the preclusion of Ross’s expert witnesses Steven Bellovin and Andreas Antonopoulos.
cirrus (Silk Road administrative account)
The Silk Road administrator operating the cirrus account was recruited by law enforcement to cooperate against DPR and Silk Road. The account was taken over by Jared Der-Yeghiayan, and used to lure Ross into logging into a DPR account just before his arrest.
mr.wonderful (Silk Road account operated by law enforcement)
The mr.wonderful account was used by HSI agents in an attempt to turn Silk Road administrators into informants. They were successful with one administrator: cirrus, but were undermined by a law enforcement mole using an account named notwonderful.
notwonderful (Silk Road account operated by rogue law enforcement)
The notwonderful account was used by a mole in law enforcement to undermine attempts by mr.wonderful (operated by HSI agents) to turn Silk Road administrators into informants. notwonderful sold secret investigation details to DPR in the months leading up to Ross’s arrest, but crucial parts of these communications were secretly and illegally deleted prior to trial.
Gary Alford (IRS New York Special Agent)
Alford claimed he found Ross’s email address in a post linked to Silk Road on Mark Karpeles‘s Bitcoin forum. His explanation defies belief, yet it was used as the basis for the subpoena and warrants used to prosecute Ross.
Preetinder (Preet) Bharaha (U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York)
Bharara was New York Senator Chuck Schumer‘s Chief Counsel for nearly five years. He oversaw Ross’s prosecution and was instrumental in ensuring that Ross was tried in New York instead of California where he was arrested.
Thomas Kiernan (FBI New York Special Agent)
Kiernan was the first to take possession of Ross’s laptop after his arrest and had sole, unsupervised access to it for three hours. During that time, he overwrote data and violated numerous computer forensics standards with almost no record keeping of what he did.
Christopher Beeson (private contractor)
Beeson took possession of Ross’s laptop from Thomas Kiernan after Ross’s arrest. He overwrote data, lost data, crashed the computer, and kept almost no records of what he did. He violated numerous computer forensics standards, yet the data he ultimately extracted was used as the basis for the government’s case against Ross.
Katherine Forrest (New York district court judge)
Judge Forrest presided over Ross’s trial and sentencing. She upheld illegal warrants, precluded evidence regarding corrupt agent Carl Force, alternate perpetrator Mark Karpeles, and multiple DPRs. She barred defense expert witnesses Steven Bellovin and Andreas Antonopoulos from testifying, and Ross’s lawyer, Joshua Dratel, from cross-examining government witnesses. At sentencing, she used uncharged, unproven allegations and what she thought were Ross’s philosophical beliefs to justify giving him two life sentences plus forty years.
Andrew Jones (Silk Road administrator)
As part of a cooperation agreement, Jones told Ross’s prosecutor, AUSA Serrin Turner, that DPR had failed an identity verification “handshake,” indicating that the DPR who failed the handshake was different from the one who set it up. Turner and Judge Katherine Forrest suppressed this testimony at trial.
Ilhwan Yum (FBI New York Special Agent)
Yum was a surprise government witness at trial, who introduced a complex analysis of the bitcoins seized from Ross’s laptop. Ross’s lawyer, Joshua Dratel, was given only a couple of days to prepare a rebuttal, and was prevented from calling Bitcoin expert Andreas Antonopoulos to the stand to counter Yum’s testimony.
Bellovin was an expert witness for Ross’s defense at trial. He was called to the stand to rebut the testimony from Thomas Kiernan and Christopher Beeson, and to show how the digital evidence used against Ross was unreliable. However he was prevented from testifying by Judge Katherine Forrest.
Thomas Clark (alleged senior advisor to DPR)
Clark is alleged to have advised DPR in his operation of Silk Road. He later exposed an extortion plot involving the kidnapping of Ross’s family members.
Judge Gerard Lynch (Second Circuit appellate court judge)
Judge Lynch wrote the ruling for Ross’s appeal. He upheld Ross’s conviction despite the illegal, warrantless seizure of Ross’s internet traffic information, despite agents Carl Force and Shaun Bridges corrupting the investigation, and despite numerous abuses of discretion by Katherine Forrest at trial. He also upheld Ross’s life sentence.
Kannon Shanmugan (head of the Appellate and Supreme Court practice at Williams & Connolly)
Shanmugan represented Ross at the Supreme Court. He argued that Ross’s Fourth Amendment privacy rights were violated when the government collected his internet traffic information without a warrant, and that Ross’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial was violated when Judge Katherine Forrest sentenced him based on crimes he was never found guilty of.