Michael Weigand, 56, of Kirtland, Ohio, pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to federal law enforcement about his role in the Silk Road darkweb market. Weigand essentially lied about being “~Shabang~,” aka “Shabang,” a/k/a “~s,” a/k/a “s.”
According to Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Weigand helped the Silk Road administration by “identifying technological vulnerabilities in the site, supplying technological advice directly to Silk Road’s leadership, and travelling overseas to remove Silk Road evidence from a co-conspirator’s residence.”
Federal law enforcement seized Silk Road almost seven years ago. A judge sentenced the founder and operator of Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, to two life imprisonments as well as a 40-year sentence. Ulbricht’s advisor, Roger Thomas Clark, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to distribute narcotics. Clark is awaiting sentencing. Weigand, according to investigators, helped Clark find vulnerabilities in the Silk Road darkweb market. He also provided technical advice directly to Ulbricht.
However, in January 2019, an IRS Special Agent and an FBI Special Agent questioned Weigand about his role in the marketplace. At the start of the interview, one of the federal law enforcement officers warned Weigand that making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer was a crime.
During the session, Weigand made several false statements to the investigators, including:
- he never opened an account on Silk Road;
- he never used the online pseudonyms “Shabang” or “~Shabang~”;
- he never transferred Bitcoin to Silk Road;
- he never exposed computer security vulnerabilities in the Silk Road website;
- he never communicated with anyone who used the online pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts,” “DPR,” or “Silk Road”;
- he never performed any services for the Silk Road website; and
- he did not know the true identity of “Variety Jones” (one of Clark’s pseudonyms) on Silk Road.
“Weigand also falsely stated that the purpose of his trip to London in late 2013, following the takedown of the Silk Road website and arrest of Ulbricht, was to meet with Clark’s associate regarding a marijuana seed business. In fact, Weigand traveled to Clark’s London residence and removed Silk Road evidence,” the prosecutor said in a recent press release.
IRS-CI Acting Special Agent in Charge Joleen Simpson:
“During its years of operation the Silk Road website allowed thousands of individuals to anonymously conduct narcotics transactions, launder money, and facilitate other illegal transactions. This investigation took law enforcement above and beyond its traditional role in financial crimes. In effect, it put us squarely in the middle of the high-tech world of cyber-crime and the dark web. When given the opportunity to provide truthful statements to the agents, Weigand knowingly and willfully attempted to deceive the agents of the role he played in providing technical expertise to the Silk Road operators. I hope that this guilty plea will discourage others from providing false information to law enforcement officers in the future.”
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr.:
“Weigand and others used their skills and savvy to create a secret online enclave for criminals to trade in illegal drugs and illicit goods and services. They thought they were smart enough to evade law enforcement, but they were wrong. When Weigand was confronted, he lied about his involvement – once again thinking we weren’t smart enough to catch him. With today’s plea, he’ll have time to contemplate the truth as he awaits his sentence.”
HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh:
“Criminal activity on the dark web continues to be more prevalent, allowing easy accessibility to narcotics and illicit goods with the click of a button. With online criminal enterprises growing, law enforcement technologies are advancing, and HSI with its partners are infiltrating the dark web, intercepting online dealings and locating the perpetrators. Today’s guilty plea should stand as reminder to those criminals who have a false sense of security behind their computer screen, that they too will one day face the consequences of their actions.”