Australian Man Pleads Guilty in Manhattan Federal Court to Helping Run the Silk Road Website
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that PETER PHILLIP NASH, a/k/a “Samesamebutdifferent,” a/k/a “Batman73,” a/k/a “Symmetry,” a/k/a “Anonymousasshit,” pled guilty today to narcotics trafficking and money laundering charges in connection with his role in operating “Silk Road,” a hidden website designed to enable its users to buy and sell illegal drugs and other unlawful goods and services anonymously and beyond the reach of law enforcement. U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Griesa presided over the plea proceedings.
According to the allegations in the Indictment, and statements made at today’s plea and other court proceedings:
From January 2011, up to and including October 2, 2013, the “Silk Road” website hosted a sprawling black-market bazaar on the Internet, where illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services were regularly bought and sold by the site’s users. During its more than two-and-a-half years in operation, Silk Road was used by several thousand drug dealers and other unlawful vendors to distribute hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services to well over a hundred thousand buyers, and to launder hundreds of millions of dollars deriving from these unlawful transactions.
The owner and operator of Silk Road, Ross William Ulbricht, a/k/a “Dread Pirate Roberts,” a/k/a “DPR,” a/k/a “Silk Road,” ran the website with the assistance of a small support staff, including both site administrators and forum moderators. The site administrators were responsible for, among other things, monitoring user activity on Silk Road for problems, responding to customer service inquiries, and resolving disputes between buyers and vendors. The forum moderators were responsible for, among other things, monitoring user activity on discussion forums associated with the site, providing guidance to forum users concerning how to conduct business on Silk Road, and reporting any significant problems discussed on the forums to the site administrators and to Ulbricht. Ulbricht paid the site administrators and forum moderators salaries ranging from approximately $50,000 to approximately $75,000 per year for their services.
From January 2013, up to and including October 2, 2013, NASH worked as the primary moderator on the Silk Road discussion forums. NASH was arrested in December 2013 along with co-defendants Andrew Michael Jones, a/k/a “Inigo,” and Gary Davis, a/k/a “Libertas,” who worked as site administrators on Silk Road. NASH, Jones, and Davis were each paid salaries by Ulbricht for their roles on Silk Road’s customer support staff.
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NASH, 41, of Brisbane, Australia, pled guilty to one count of narcotics conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, and one count of money laundering conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided for informational purposes only, as the sentence will be determined by the judge. NASH is scheduled to be sentenced on May 26, 2015.
Ulbricht was convicted following trial on February 4, 2015, on charges relating to narcotics trafficking, computer hacking, trafficking in fraudulent identification documents, and money laundering. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 15, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest.
Jones pled guilty on October 2, 2014, before U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Griesa. He is currently scheduled to be sentenced on October 1, 2015.
Davis is currently pending extradition in Ireland.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its New York Special Operations and Cyber Division, as well as the outstanding investigative work of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (“DEA”) New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force, which comprises agents and officers of the DEA, the Internal Revenue Service, the New York City Police Department, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the New York State Police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, Office of Foreign Assets Control, and New York Department of Taxation. Mr. Bharara also thanked the ICE-HSI Chicago-O’Hare office for its assistance and support, as well as the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. Additionally, Mr. Bharara praised the foreign law enforcement partners whose contributions to the success of the investigation and prosecution have been invaluable, namely, the Australian Federal Police, the Irish Republic’s Computer Crime Investigation Unit of the An Garda Siochana, the Reykjavik Metropolitan Police of the Republic of Iceland, and the French Republic’s Central Office for the Fight Against Crime Linked to Information Technology and Communication.
Mr. Bharara also noted that the investigation remains ongoing.
The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Serrin Turner and Tim Howard are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment remain pending and are merely accusations against Davis, who is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.