The prosecution claimed that Ross controlled Silk Road from start to finish and was the only person behind the accounts of its operator, Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR). However, there is hard evidence and testimony—even from the government’s lead Silk Road investigator—that contradicts this key element of their narrative.

“Everybody says there were multiple DPRs. Absolutely. I was DPR once. So if I was, who else was?”
– Curtis Green, former Silk Road admin.[2]

“…there was more than one DPR, DPR’s identity changed over time, and there was a change very close in time to Ross’s arrest.”
– Joshua Dratel, Criminal Defense Attorney.[1]

Crypto Show interview with Curtis Green, August 8, 2018

DPR logged in while Ross was in prison

A record in the Silk Road forum database shows that the last time the DPR forum account was logged into was November 18, 2013, nearly seven weeks after Ross was arrested and four days before law enforcement took the forum offline. Not only was Ross in prison at this time, he was in solitary confinement, completely sealed off from the outside world.

Although we know that DPR logged in on that day, we still don’t know:

  • When that person or persons originally gained access
  • How many times they logged into Silk Road as DPR since gaining access, or what they did
  • How many DPRs there were and when they operated
Motherboard article, Dec 1, 2016

This information was buried in four terabytes of data dumped on Ross and his lawyers before trial, and wasn’t discovered until many months later when it could no longer be used.

For media coverage, see Motherboard, Reason.

“One year [or] two years later when i messaged [DPR]—I’m pretty certain it was not the same guy. The tone was completely different. He had no recollection of the events that happened before, and his attitude to me was in stark contrast to the exuberant and wordy Dread Pirate Roberts of the early days.”
– Amir Taaki, leading Bitcoin developer.[3]

DPR said he didn’t create Silk Road

In an interview with Forbes on August 14, 2013, DPR revealed that Silk Road was handed off to him by a previous owner.[8]

AG: What inspired you to start the Silk Road? Not just philosophically, (that’s covered in lots of your posts on the Silk Road forums) but where did the idea come from?

DPR: I didn’t start the Silk Road, my predecessor did. From what I understand, it was an original idea to combine Bitcoin and Tor to create an anonymous market. Everything was in place, he just put the pieces together.

AG: Oh, apologies, I didn’t know you had a predecessor. When did you take over the Road from him? Before you announced yourself as the Dread Pirate Roberts?

DPR: It’s ok, this is the first time I’ve stated that publicly. I’d rather not say exactly when, for his sake mostly, but it was a transition that took some time. I was in his corner from early on and eventually it made sense for me to take the reigns.

AG: Can you tell me anything about the original creator of the Silk Road? How did you meet? And did you acquire the Silk Road from him in a financial deal of some kind, or simply take over the project?

DPR: He was well compensated and happy with our arrangement. It was his idea to pass the torch in fact. We met through the site. I had discovered a big vulnerability in the way he had configured the main Bitcoin wallet that was being used to process all of the deposits and withdrawals on the site. At first he ignored me, but I persisted and gained his trust by helping him secure the wallet. From there we became close friends working on Silk Road together.

Again, despite Ross’s lawyer’s objections, the judge prevented Ross’s jury from hearing this.[9]

There were “at least two other people—if not three”—who were administering Silk Road.
– pseudonymous Silk Road vendor.[10]

Forbes interview between Greenberg and DPR, Aug 14, 2013

DPR failed “handshake” with employee

Andrew Jones

A DPR employee, Andrew Jones, told federal prosecutors that, in October 2012, he and DPR had agreed upon a “handshake,” a unique question and response that only they would know. If Jones ever doubted he was talking to the same DPR, he could ask the secret question to determine if DPR knew the response.

Just weeks before Ross was arrested, Jones asked DPR for a book recommendation (the question). DPR should have known the correct response (anything by Rothbard), but was unable to provide it.[4][5]

Over his lawyer’s objections, the presiding judge prevented Ross from presenting this information to his jury at trial.[6]

“It is common knowledge that there was more than one DPR. Anyone who even remotely followed the trial could see that the jury was aggressively obstructed from knowing this and many other material facts.”
– Will Pangman, Bitcoin and Blockchain consultant.[7]

The government’s lead Silk Road investigator believed there were multiple DPRs

Jared Der-Yeghiayan
Illustration: Susie Cagle

HSI agent Jared Der-Yeghiayan, the lead Silk Road investigator, spent two years investigating Silk Road, and thousands of hours working undercover as a Silk Road employee, interacting with those behind the DPR accounts on a daily basis.

Throughout his lengthy investigation, Der-Yeghiayan’s main target behind the DPR accounts wasn’t Ross, but a man named Mark Karpeles and his associate Ashley Barr. Der-Yeghiayan also testified that he believed someone new assumed control of the DPR accounts the year of Ross’s arrest, supporting the defense’s argument that DPR’s identity changed over time.

See Investigation Derailed.