I was blown away today to read the news that one of the Silk Road arrests, James Ellingson, aka “MarijuanaIsMyMuse” is apparently also the Silk Road user known as “redandwhite”. If my theory is right, redandwhite is one of the greatest scammers Silk Road ever encountered.
MarijuanaIsMyMuse tickled my fancy back in the SR days because of his reputation of slipping a piece of paper in each order he fulfilled which said: ‘If you are the intended recipient, please use responsibly. If you are law enforcement, go fuck yourself.’ He was a popular vendor. I never in a million years would have picked him as one of DPR’s greatest nemeses.
In late March 2013, a user going by the name FriendlyChemist contacted Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR) to tell him he was in deep shit with the Hells Angels. FriendlyChemist claimed he had been fronted $700,000 worth of LSD from the motorcycle club. He gave it to popular vendor Lucydrop to sell on Silk Road. Lucydrop took off with the proceeds and failed to supply the product, never to be seen on Silk Road again. Now the Hells Angels wanted their profits and they were coming for FriendlyChemist.
FriendlyChemist decided blackmailing the owner of Silk Road was his best course of action. He had a long list of real names and addresses of Silk Road vendors and customers that he would publish unless DPR gave him $500‚000 to pay off his suppliers. He provided a sample to DPR as proof.
DPR was worried. ‘I said, have the hells angels contact me so I can work something out,’ he told his mentor Variety Jones. DPR’s journal entry on 28 March 2013 read: ‘being blackmailed with user info. talking with large distributor (hell’s angels).’
A short time later, a user previously unknown to DPR and calling himself ‘redandwhite’ introduced himself as one of the people FriendlyChemist owed money to. DPR started up a dialogue with redandwhite, proposing he become a vendor on Silk Road. He offered the supposed Angel FriendlyChemist’s real name: 34-year-old Blake Krokoff. He also provided an address in British Columbia, and the titbit that Krokoff was married with three children.
‘FriendlyChemist is a liability and I wouldn’t mind if he was executed,’ he told redandwhite.
Meanwhile, FriendlyChemist was becoming edgy, not having heard from DPR for nine days and presumably not having been let off the hook by his suppliers. FriendlyChemist delivered an ultimatum: DPR had 72 hours to pay up before 5000 users’ details and about two dozen vendors’ identities would be released. DPR decided that these threats were unforgivable and so, several hours later on 29 March 2013, DPR sent a message to redandwhite. ‘I would like to put a bounty on his head if it’s not too much trouble for you. What would be an adequate amount to motivate you to find him? Necessities like this do happen from time to time for a person in my position.’ He went on to say that it didn’t need to be ‘clean’.
Redandwhite responded quoting $300k+ for clean, or 150–200k for non-clean. The price was a bit high for DPR. ‘Are the prices you quoted the best you can do? I would like this done asap as he is talking about releasing the info on Monday.’ They eventually agreed on a price of 1670 Bitcoins—approximately $150,000 at the time—for the job. DPR made the transfer, immortalised on the blockchain for that date.
A day later, redandwhite provided an update on the whole messy situation, stating: ‘Your problem has been taken care of . . . Rest easy though, because he won’t be blackmailing anyone again. Ever.’
‘Got word that blackmailer was executed,’ DPR updated his journal.
A few days later: ‘received visual confirmation of black-mailer’s execution.’ Ever the sceptic, DPR had demanded a picture of the dead victim with a string of numbers supplied by DPR written on a piece of paper next to him, which redandwhite dutifully supplied.
‘I’ve received the picture and deleted it. Thank you again for your swift action,’ DPR wrote, presumably mentally filing the pic-ture along with that of Curtis Green laying in his can of chunky chicken soup. No doubt, he hoped that this was truly the end of killing to save the empire, until the name of an old nemesis came up.
Redandwhite must have decided this murder-for-hire business for the online drugs czar had the potential to be lucrative because, a couple of days later, he told DPR that his goons had extracted some interesting information from FriendlyChemist with some not-so-friendly questioning before his demise. FriendlyChemist had identified another Canadian who had been working with him on the blackmail scheme as well as running a number of scams for a couple of years. That individual was Tony76, the vendor responsible for the greatest heist in Silk Road’s history. And redandwhite had his real name.
Silk Road’s reputation had taken a blow due to the scam and Tony76’s name continued to be brought up as part of its history. DPR never forgot what he did.
‘Man, I still can’t believe tony fell into yer lap,’ Variety Jones marvelled when DPR told him a heavily edited version of the story a few days later.
Indeed, DPR didn’t do much questioning himself on that part of the story as he relayed what FriendlyChemist had told redandwhite. ‘Says he was in cahoots with lucy all along and ripping the angels off and blackmailing me was part of the plan. He also said a 3rd party, our man tony76, orchestrated the whole thing. Gave up his ID.’ Redandwhite had told DPR that Tony76’s real name was Andrew Lawsry of Surrey, Canada. ‘[FriendlyChemist] said that [Lawsry] started selling on silkroad a couple of years ago and since then he has made a career of making new seller profiles to sell and then rip people off. He told them how to start on here and how to rip people off and asked for a percentage in return. He said that he showed them everything about how to sell and how to pull it off and all that stuff.’
Again, not stopping to wonder where redandwhite had come from or whether he was really who he said he was, DPR ordered another hit. ‘I would like to go after [Tony76],’ he wrote, ‘though it is important to me to make sure he is who Blake said he is. I would rather miss the chance to take him out, than hit an innocent person. If he is our man, then he likely has substantial as-sets to be recovered. Perhaps we can hold him and question him?’
There was a problem, though. Tony76 lived with three other drug dealers, and at least two were always home. ‘Ok, let’s just hit [Tony76] and leave it at that. Try to recover the funds, but if not, then not,’ said DPR.
Redandwhite was a little more bloodthirsty—either that or he needed the money. He offered to hit Tony76 alone for $150K, but said that he would have a better chance of recovering any money if he did all four occupants of the house. ‘Anything recovered would be split 50/50 with you,’ he said. Redandwhite quoted the bargain price of $500K to do all four, practically a ‘buy three, get one free’ deal.
Whether he was nervous or he liked the idea of 50 per cent of re-covered earnings, DPR responded later that day: ‘hmm . . . ok, I’ll defer to your better judgment and hope we can recover some assets from them.’
‘Gave angels go ahead to find tony76,’ he wrote in his journal, along with some housekeeping issues about cleaning up unused libraries on the server.
DPR transferred another 3000 Bitcoin to redandwhite (‘sent payment to angels for hit on tony76 and his 3 associates,’ said the journal), an amount which again appears in the blockchain for that day.
A week later, he received confirmation that he had been successful in ordering the murders of four people, three of whom he did not know and had no beef with. ‘That problem was dealt with. I’ll try to catch you online to give you details,’ wrote redandwhite. ‘Just wanted to let you know right away so you have one less thing to worry about.’ ‘
Thanks,’ said DPR, ‘see you on chat.’
The greatest scam ever?
Perhaps the reason DPR was so ready to place a hit on Tony76 was that Tony76 personified the greatest frustrations of running the most successful online black market in history. The truth was the market did not run as smoothly as its owner tried to portray. There was never a shortage of people for whom the fast and relatively easy money of drug dealing was not enough. Criminals saw another criminal making untold riches and they wanted a share of it. DPR spent a great deal of money paying off extortionists, hackers and scammers behind the scenes, while the Silk Road community remained in blissful ignorance.
DPR paid up to protect not only his empire, but the people he considered he had a responsibility towards. If a rogue vendor threatened to release information about their customer base, Dread Pirate Roberts paid the ransom to keep them quiet. When a staff member apparently stole the Bitcoin in members’ accounts, DPR returned the money without telling them it had been stolen. He paid off those who would perform DDoS attacks to take the website offline. When a scammer spoofed private messages to look like they were coming from Inigo and convinced vendors to part with Bitcoin to buy ‘shares’ in Silk Road, again DPR returned the money from his own pocket.
He kept records of all the payments as expenses in his spreadsheet. All in all, the costs of paying off criminals could pile up, but DPR tried to protect his people as much as possible. But when he discovered that the original great scammer, Tony76, had apparently been so happy with proceeds from his heist that he carried out a similar scam months later with Lucydrop, it was too much. He had already crossed a certain line when he had ordered the murder of Curtis Green.
Only it seems that Tony76 was a scammer on a far more epic scale than DPR ever imagined. The FBI and Canadian authorities compared notes and could find no homicides matching the names or any other details of the alleged victims. The most probable explanation was that redandwhite and FriendlyChemist were the same person—maybe even Tony76—carrying out an elaborate scam. FriendlyChemist had started blackmailing Silk Road around the same time as Lucydrop—who was very likely Tony76—had absconded with thousands of dollars worth of members’ Bitcoin.
DPR had apparently paid Bitcoin worth around $650,000 [$20 million in today-money] to a slick-talking shyster and opened himself up to charges of conspiracy to commit five new murders that had never taken place. If it was as it appeared, Tony76 first robbed hundreds of Silk Road customers to the tune of six figures in April 2012, scammed them again for a similar amount under the name Lucydrop in 2013, then attempted to blackmail Dread Pirate Roberts with customers’ addresses he had gathered while selling as Tony76 and Lucydrop. When that failed, he extracted the money out of Silk Road by pretending to be a hitman, carrying out the murders of himself and his alter egos.
Variety Jones was right to marvel that Tony76 had dropped into DPR’s lap.
DPR knew who redandwhite was?
According to one article, one of the folders on the laptop seized from Ross Ulbricht on his arrest contained a folder called “red save” which had a picture of Ellingson on it:
The U.S. alleges Ellingson communicated with Ulbricht and received his Bitcoin payments under the username Redandwhite. A laptop recovered from Ulbricht contained a file labelled “save red” that contained photos referenced in his communications with Redandwhite. The photos showed “packaged drugs and Canadian currency.” And some showed a man in front of a building that the U.S. alleged looks like the picture on Ellingson’s driver’s licence.
Had DPR managed to get an ID on redandwhite? There are more questions than ever in this saga
Always smart to use a VPN. I use IPVanish