Australian Federal Police Bust Internet Drug Dealer, DEA Says Its “Heavily Involved” in Silk Road Investigations

Olivia Solon
Ars Technica
February 6, 2013


Silk Road - Anonymous MarketplaceAn Australian drug dealer has become the first person to be convicted of a Silk Road-related crime, after using the black marketplace to buy a stash of MDMA, amphetamine, marijuana, and cocaine.

People can buy goods from Silk Road only by connecting with the anonymizing Tor network and using Bitcoins. The marketplace has very few restrictions on what people can sell. An August 2012 study by security researchers at Carnegie Mellon University revealed that the Silk Road trades items worth £1.22 million every month.

According to a report in The Age Paul Leslie Howard used Silk Road to buy and import the illicit drugs on 11 different occasions. Australian Customs and Border Protection Service officers in Melbourne and Sydney examined mail—most of which came from the Netherlands and Germany—destined for his home. They found 46.9 grams of MDMA and 14.5 grams of cocaine. The federal police then raided his house in July 2012 and found digital scales, ziplock bags, AU$2,300 ($2,394) in cash, 35 stun guns disguised as mobile phones and a money counter. They also found two working mobile phones, and forensically analyzed more than 20,000 text messages. In among them were incriminating texts such as “I got five grand worth if you want” and “promote the LSD I got more in. I sold 200 cubes last week”.

Howard has pleaded guilty to two charges of “importing a marketable quantity of a border-controlled drug”, which carries a maximum jail term of 25 years. He also pleaded guilty to possessing controlled weapons. During the trial he said that he had been drawn to the site after reading an article by a journalist called Eileen Ormsby, who regularly covers the Silk Road in Australian newspapers. Since Howard’s conviction, the
Silk Road has warned
its users via its Twitter account not to follow their feed nor the feed of Ormsby with their real names.

Prosecutor Morgan Brown made it clear that the authorities had a lot of information about Howard from the Silk Road, including access to his profile, which he registered under the name Shadh1 in April 2012. He set up a vendor’s account offering up cocaine and speed and saying that he is looking to “branch into more as I get more coin back in my pocket”.

At the time of Howard’s arrest, the Australian Federal Police and the Customs and Border Protection Service issued a warning to any would-be drug traders using supposedly anonymous marketplaces such as the Silk Road saying they could be identified by police techniques.

Read the full article— Police crack down on Silk Road following first drug dealer conviction