Irish Man Who Helped Run The “Silk Road” Website Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court
The Silk Road Website Was Responsible for Selling Over $200 Million in Illegal Narcotics and Other Contraband
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that GARY DAVIS, a/k/a “Libertas,” pled guilty today to conspiring to distribute massive quantities of narcotics, a charge arising out of his role as a member of the small administrative staff of “Silk Road.” During its operation from 2011 until 2013, Silk Road was used by thousands of drug dealers and other unlawful vendors to distribute illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services to more than 100,000 buyers, and to launder hundreds of millions of dollars derived from those unlawful transactions. DAVIS pled guilty before United States District Judge Jesse M. Furman.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Silk Road was a secret online marketplace for illegal drugs, hacking services, and a whole host of other criminal activity. As he admitted today, Gary Davis served as an administrator who helped run the Silk Road marketplace. Davis’s arrest, extradition from Ireland, and conviction should send a clear message: the purported anonymity of the dark web is not a protective shield from prosecution.”
According to the allegations in the Superseding Indictment, court filings, statements made in court, and evidence presented during the 2015 trial of Ross Ulbricht, Silk Road’s founder:
From January 2011, up to 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 100,000 buyers, and to launder hundreds of millions of dollars derived 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.
From May 2013 up to June 2013, DAVIS served as a forum moderator for Silk Road. From June 2013 up to October 2, 2013, DAVIS worked as a site administrator on Silk Road. In his role as a site administrator, DAVIS’s responsibilities included (1) responding to customer support requests from Silk Road users who needed assistance with their buyer or seller accounts on the marketplace; (2) serving as an arbitrator by resolving disputes that arose between drug dealers and buyers on the site; and (3) enforcing the rules for doing business on Silk Road, which had been set by Ulbricht. For instance, there was a rule against “out of escrow” sales—i.e., sellers and buyers arranging payments off the site to avoid paying Silk Road commissions. When violations of this rule were discovered, DAVIS could terminate the vendor’s account, demote the vendor, or otherwise restrict the vendor’s privileges, and he typically reported such incidents to Ulbricht. DAVIS was paid a weekly salary for his work as a site administrator.
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DAVIS, 30, of Wicklow, Ireland, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute narcotics, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge. DAVIS is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Furman on January 17, 2019 at 3:30 p.m.
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Mr. Berman praised the outstanding joint efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its New York Special Operations and Cyber Division, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations—Chicago-O’Hare, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York Field Division, and the Internal Revenue Service—Criminal Investigation’s New York Field Office. Mr. Berman also thanked the Irish Republic’s Computer Crime Investigation Unit of the An Garda Siochana for its valuable assistance and support. Mr. Berman also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for their support and assistance.
This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael D. Neff, Eun Young Choi, and Timothy T. Howard are in charge of the prosecution.