The Government’s investigation has revealed that, during its two-and-a-half year operation, Silk Road has been 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 those transactions. All told, the site has generated sales revenue totaling over 9.5 million Bitcoins and collected commissions from these sales totaling over 600,000 Bitcoins. Although the value of Bitcoins has varied significantly during the site’s lifetime, these figures are roughly equivalent today to approximately $1.2 billion in sales and approximately $80 million in commissions.Buzzfeed notes that Silk Road's shutdown has left many small-time drug dealers in an embarassing situation (images can be seen on the site):
The criminal complaint reveals that over 100 undercover purchases were made by law enforcement agents, giving Silk Road dealers plenty to worry about. But the most intense panic is coming from a specific kind of Silk Road user: the offline drug dealer.Oops.
In order to buy something on Silk Road, you first have to transfer funds to your account. Since these funds are Bitcoins, and since Bitcoin transfers are final and permanent, any money held in a Silk Road account is no longer available to the users who deposited it. For most users, this is an annoyance:
For others, some of whom are congregating on Reddit's Silk Road forum, the situation is more dire.
This user, Jayman62, claims to have deposited a large sum to his account, which presumably came from people using him for his online drug connection. If he agreed to supply someone with drugs, accepted money from this person, then put that money into a Silk Road account, that money is now gone and he has nothing to show for it:
This user claims to have lost "3 grand" that was "fronted" to him:
And has a history of trouble with what appears to be a fairly serious drug dealing operation:
Neither user has responded to a request for an interview.
Just a reminder that, as silly as buying and selling drugs on Tor with Bitcoins sounds, it's still buying and selling drugs.
Tangentially related is a story from n+1 about how mundane the Silk Road drug-buying experience was, and also about the Internet subculture that has grown up around designer drugs.
In October 2009, an administrator posted a thread with the subject line “If you have ordered 2C-B-fly from Haupt-RC, then your life may be in danger.” He explained that an acquaintance of his, a 22-year-old man from Copenhagen with the online handle “Minimal,” had died after taking 18 mg of a substance imported from a wholesaler in China.Personally, they had me at "a substance imported from a wholesaler in China."
The two hundred replies that followed the original post are worth reading because they constitute such a genuine report on what the internet has done to drug culture. By post 9, someone has uploaded a photo of a 500mg bag of the compound to help out others who thought they might have bought some. By post 14, someone is complaining about a Wikipedia editor taking down information about Minimal’s death on the basis that, the editor claimed, “Wikipedia is not a newswire or a drug advice center, it is an encyclopedia.” By post 24, someone is asking for advice about how to convince his friends to throw away their stash of the drug: “These are Texans we’re talking about here, I need hard data.” By post 60, the high-level chemical discussion has begun: “The RC vendor’s website’s structure for the so called 2cbfly indicated saturation on the outer furan rings.” By post 62, two friends of the man who died in San Jose have arrived to tell their stories. By post 111, someone has uploaded a photo of their DIY Marquis reagent test on the compound, and by post 157, someone has uploaded a graph of the gas chromotography-mass spectrometry data from a Spanish drug analysis organization called Energy Control.