This is part three of Rooster’s exclusive Silk Road investigative series, exploring the rise and fall of the first dark-web marketplace in internet history. If you missed parts one or two, check them out.
In this installment, Curtis Green, aka "Flush", one of the most important characters in this saga, tells us his side of the story: how he was singled out, framed, arrested, abused and tortured by rogue agents and eventually flagged for murder by his own boss (and old friend) the Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR).
His, is a terrible tale. And it started a domino effect that would bring the entire Silk Road empire crashing down on Ross Ulbricht.
"The American Psyciatric Association says that the number of sociopaths is about 4% and rapidly growing. If twenty cops beat down your door, there's a good chance that one of them will be a sopciopath. In my case, I eventually dicovered, I got two!"
The day of his arrest Curtis Green was working from his home in Spanish Fork, Utah.
That morning he had received a strange USPS delivery to his doorstep, from a mailman who had literally thrown the packages onto the porch and sprinted off down the street. Weird as that seemed, Green brought the packages inside, more curious than anything and opened them up.
As soon as the knife tip pierced the first package, it exploded in his face in a plume of snow-white powder. His tongue went instantly numb and panic began settled over him.
This was cocaine. Everywhere. No doubt about it, Green realized licking his lips. But it wasn’t his. He wasn’t a drug user to begin with, and even if he was, Green understood the mechanics of the Silk Road drug trade. He wouldn’t have had it delivered directly to his home.
Something was very wrong here.
Bang, bang, bang.
“OPEN UP! POLICE!”
Green, plastered in coke, hit the floor. And it must have felt as though he fell straight through it…
Curtis Green has a new book out about all this. And, technically, right now, he is contractually bound not to give any interviews, unless they’re about that book: Silk Road Takedown, which is available now on Amazon.
“It’s like the story that never ends,” he tells me, not even half-joking.
That’s something that is becoming clearer to me (and probably to you, too, if you’ve followed the other articles in this series) as the scope and breadth of this insane incident comes into focus. This story is a labyrinth of rabbit holes. A sprawling nexus of crypto-plots, libertarian ideologies, mysterious characters, their tangled connections and eventual injustices, that seems to roll on and on in every direction, forever.
This web-series can barely scratch the surface of the strange and twisted saga that is the Silk Road story. Silk Road Takedown, for instance (Green’s new book, which I’m plugging again so his publishers don’t get fussy) is 365 pages long. And that’s just one person’s account, one tunnel in that seemingly never-ending network.
“I was raised a Mormon, I’m still a Mormon,” Green explains, speaking so quickly it’s hard to keep up with him.
Green is an ex-EMT, a grandfather and a poker enthusiast who lives with his wife in the sleepy desert town of Spanish Fork. His life has been mostly quiet, largely uneventful — right up until his neighborhood was swarmed with an army of black, government SUV's, helicopters and SWAT teams.
Green was one of the Silk Road’s early and most prominent administrators. He was one of DPR’s right hand men. His screen name on Silk Road was “Flush” (like the poker hand) and he spent his days moderating forums, mediating transaction disputes between customers and vendors, and helping people change their passwords.
Green’s relationship with DPR was a close one, that bordered at times on friendship. They were tight and they seemed to value one another’s advice and insights. That was, before DPR put out the order for Green’s murder.
They haven’t talked much since then.
Prior to that, though, the two would talk frequently. Their conversations ranged from business, to poker, to Bitcoin and ideology. DPR once even staked Green $3,000 to play in the World Series of Poker, wearing a Silk Road t-shirt — a loan, which Green accepted happily and then ended up losing entirely.
His boss (or captain, perhaps) didn’t seem too phased by this, though.
“That’s the breaks,” DRP wrote to Green, when he informed his sponsor of the loss. “You win some you lose some.”
That kind of altruism was not unheard of from DPR. Green describes him as often being amiable and generous, like a “grandfather or uncle” figure. Once, DPR even donated Bitcoins to a Silk Road user, who wanted to buy a wedding ring for their partner and couldn’t afford it.
But DPR wasn’t always so chill. According to Green, their strange cyber-leader also had a dark side. He was constantly stoking the coals of some cyber-revolution only he could clearly see, frequenting Silk Road’s message boards and spreading radical inspiration to the masses.
“Stop funding the state with your tax dollars,” DPR wrote on a public message board. “Direct your productive energies toward the black market.”
To DPR, every transaction on Silk Road was a step towards what he called “universal freedom” and “a direct challenge to the very structure of power” Green says in Silk Road Takedown. DPR (whoever they were) was not only dangerously idealistic but they were extremely intelligent, extremely well-written and sometimes, even cold blooded.
Green recalls in the book, one instance when a Silk Road user submitted a distressing service complaint. Her brother had ordered heroin from the site, overdosed and died. She was looking for compensation.
Green confronted DPR about the situation, suggesting that perhaps they outlaw certain drugs from being sold on Silk Road. “Perhaps that’s a hair too much freedom,” Green wrote to DPR.
“THAT’S MY WHOLE IDEA!” The Dread Pirate retorted, angrily. “Any constraints would destroy the fundamental concept. And no, I’m not giving any financial assistance to the sister.”
In fact, DPR’s good-natured character and his dark-side were so distinctly different, many on the website (including Green) began to speculate that there were multiple people behind the DPR profile. A theory that wasn’t confirmed for Green, until one day in 2012, when DPR told Green he needed a vacation and asked if he wanted to act as “DPR” in the interim.
Green respectfully declined, though the offer explained a lot about the nature of this seemingly schizophrenic dark-web folk hero.
It makes sense, too: the Dread Pirate Roberts of fiction was famous in the Princess Bride universe, for doing exactly the same thing: he wore a mask and terrorized the open ocean and when he wanted to retire or became too old to continue, he would simply pass the mask on to his successor, to another member of his crew who would adopt the moniker and the identity of the eternal sea scoundrel.
While Green admits that there were definitely multiple people operating as DPR, he says it was still pretty clear that just one person was acting as his voice and idealistic pilot.
“People knew there were multiple DPRs, but there was one main one,” Green says. The impeccable writing style and the charismatic libertarian soap-boxing was coming from a particular someone, he says. And that someone, whoever they were, was fiercely idealistic, radically libertarian, well-educated and highly intelligent.
Which sounds an awful lot like Ross Ulbricht — the 29-year-old visionary founder of the Silk Road.
But, that doesn’t line up. At least, not according to what Lyn Ulbricht told me. When I interviewed her for Part I of this series, she explained that, Ross, her son, had disentangled himself after Silk Road became too much to handle. By November of 2011, according to Lyn and the information on freeross.org, Ross was already out by this time; he had completely turned over his control of Silk Road to a cyber-stranger who had offered to take the reins.
That new leader wouldn’t announce their screenname as “Dread Pirate Roberts” until February 2012…
So if Ross was gone, who was this?
Jared Der-Yeghian, the Homeland Security Investigator who first discovered the Silk Road, thought it was a Frenchman named Mark Karpeles.
Karpeles was the perfect suspect. A computer whizz and the owner/CEO of the largest Bitcoin exchange group in the world at that time, Karpeles had the motive, the means and knowhow to run something like Silk Road. And he was making bank, hosting all the Bitcoin transactions going through his exchange group, Mt. Gox; cashing in hard as Silk Road drove demand for Bitcoins to insane heights.
But was he the one speaking for DPR? Sermonizing libertarianism and capitalistic revolution?
I asked Curtis Green whether or not he thought Ross had stepped away from Silk Road, as Lyn suggested.
He answered me without a moment’s hesitation.
“Oh, no. No. He didn’t [step away].” Green says.
The confidence in his voice stunned me a little.
“Why would he step away from it once he got it up and running?” Green continued, when I didn’t say anything. “He had this huge grandiose plan for Silk Road.”
Green says that Ross was constantly mulling over the expansion of Silk Road; that he had plans to break it up into shares he could sell to investors; plans to use the income from the site to build wells and infrastructure for villages in Africa. He had a vision for his vision, Green explains, and that wasn’t something he would have just given up because it got “too hard.”
“Lyn’s whole thing is Ross is totally innocent. And it’s like, well, if he created [Silk Road], and he admitted to creating it, then he’s guilty of what they accused him of,” Green says. “I love Lyn, but I think about my mother … she would do the same thing. She wouldn’t believe it either.”
“I’ve always said that I don’t think Ross should be serving double life plus forty,” Green adds, sternly. “I’ve always said that. I don’t think that his sentence is fair.”
Ross Ulbricht, founder of Silk Road, currently serving double life plus forty without the possibility of parole.
That much is inarguable. No one, arrested for similar or connected crimes in the years since, has received nearly as harsh a punishment as Ross Ulbricht. To put it into perspective, El Chapo, the world-famous leader of the notoriously violent and savage Sinaloa Mexican drug cartel, only received one life sentence…
Green avoided any prison time, himself. He didn’t have to spend a day behind bars, largely in part because, after he was arrested, tortured and abused by rogue government agents he sang like a bird and danced like a monkey.
When they came for him, swarming his neighborhood and home in Spanish Fork, the police did not wait for Green to open the door — the agents battered their way through almost immediately and spilled inside, armed with automatic weapons.
“HANDS WHERE WE CAN SEE THEM!”
Agents stomped on Green like a door mat as they plowed through his house, confiscating computer hardware and the camouflage fanny pack he was wearing around his waist.
“Lookit this,” Green recalls one the agents saying, in Silk Road Takedown, as they removed that pack and opened it.
“Geez he’s got more than 20 grand here!”
That money was his life savings, which he'd pulled from the bank only months prior when he switched his primary form of savings to Bitcoin currency. But the police couldn't know that.
Green’s chihuahua sprinted around as armed agents crashed through rooms, and Green laid there helpless, covered in cocaine, trying desperately to explain that the money was legit and that the coke wasn’t his.
Things definitely didn’t look good.
And that was exactly how DEA agent Carl Mark Force, who had planted the cocaine, wanted it to look. He, and Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges, were about to make Green's life a living hell. These rogue agents were about to frame him for stealing thousands of Bitcoins from DPR, who would order a hit out on Green — one of his most trusted allies and admins.
A hit, which Force and Bridges would nearly execute for him, in an attempt to fake Green's death.
All that, next week, in The Rooster Silk Road Files.
Part IV: Criminal agents and the Dread Pirate trap