Dread Pirate Roberts was the king of the Dark Web back in 2013. He was praised for building an empire known as the Silk Road and turning Bitcoin into a global empire. But one doesn’t control a drug and arms deal marketplace without issues. In order to get there, he had to get his hands dirty. He had to remove those who posed a threat to him and but he couldn’t do this himself; he had to make sure nothing was linked back to him. So Dread Pirate Roberts found himself a personal Hitman… Or so he thought.
Ross Ulbricht, AKA, Dread Pirate Roberts
If you’re new to the Darknet, you might not know who Ross Ulbricht is… but he’s easily the most recognisable name across the deep web world. Ross Ulbricht is an American IT nerd and the founder of the Silk Road (not the original Darknet Marketplace, but it’s the first notable one.) Ross was born on March 27, 1984, in Austin, Texas. Ulbricht studied physics at the University of Texas at Dallas and later earned a master’s degree in materials science and engineering from Penn State University.
In early 2011, Ulbricht started the Silk Road empire, an anonymous online marketplace only accessible using the Tor browser. As the admin of the website, Ulbricht used the pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts”. The Silk Road became a platform for buying and selling illegal goods, primarily drugs. At this time, Ross made a drastic decision that changed the crypto world. He made Bitcoin payments the primary payment for all vendors on the darknet. He believed this was the ultimate option for anonymity on the internet. The website flourished.
However, in October 2013, Ulbricht was arrested by the FBI in San Francisco and charged with money laundering, computer hacking, conspiracy to traffic narcotics, and attempting to hire a hitman to eliminate individuals he believed posed a threat to the Silk Road. In February 2015, Ulbricht was found guilty on seven charges, including drug trafficking and money laundering, and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. His trial and subsequent conviction garnered widespread media coverage and sparked debates about the role of technology and personal responsibility in the digital age.
Despite many petitioning against his life sentence, Ross Ulbricht remains incarcerated, and his case continues to be a subject of public interest and legal discussion. The most recent news to come from Ulbricht took place just last week as information regarding a Hitman-For-Hire was finally released; James Ellingson.
James Ellingson: aka “redandwhite,” aka “MarijuanaisMyMuse,” aka “Lucydrop”
James Ellingson was a popular darknet vendor on the Silk Road back in 2012 and 2013. Initially, he took the alias “Redandwhite” and later created two more accounts for alternative activities.
He is a Canadian citizen who lived in Vancouver, British Columbia. Ellingson used various usernames, including “MarijuanaIsMyMuse,” “Lucydrop,” and “redandwhite,” to sell large quantities of narcotics on Silk Road between 2011 and 2013. During his vendor days, Ellingson sold methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, LSD, ecstasy (MDMA), and marijuana (when it was still illegal) to customers on the platform in exchange for Bitcoin.
LucyDrops, in particular, was extremely lucrative. From October 2012 to March 2013, Lucydrop sold narcotics worth approximately $285,000. Between November 14, 2012, and March 13, 2013, Lucydrop made about 139 withdrawals totalling around 13,820 Bitcoins from the Lucydrop Silk Road Account.
After failing to mix his Bitcoin, Ellingson withdrew his tokens from Cavirtex, a Canadian Bitcoin exchange. He used the same pseudonym, “RedAndWhite”, and linked the KYC to his real identity… A massive OpSec mistake ultimately led to his arrest, where he has now been charged with narcotics trafficking and money laundering offences related to his involvement in the Silk Road online marketplace.
The Ellingson Cavirtex Account was opened using Ellingson’s Canadian driver’s license, a utility bill in his name, and the Ellingson Email Account. Saved emails from Ellingson Email Account also contained notations of drug weights, names, and prices consistent with narcotics sales on Silk Road.
During his trials, Ellingson made claims towards DPR (Dread Pirate Roberts), claiming that Ross had requested five assassinations for Ellingson to complete as a way to execute all Silk Road threats. The investigating law enforcement agencies do not currently possess evidence that the murders discussed by Redandwhite and Ulbricht took place.
Ulbricht Contacts Ellingson
Although Ulbricht and Ellingson had spoken to each other often due to LucyDrops and Redandwhite’s major roles in the darknet marketplace. Ulbricht approached Ellingson’s Redandwhite account to request something much greater than he ever had before. And he was willing to pay for it. This came after a third user known as “FriendlyChemist” joined the picture. Here’s a timeline of the events
FriendlyChemist Joins the Picture
- On March 8, 2013, a user named “FriendlyChemist” registered an account on Silk Road. He then ordered some narcotics from Lucydrop’s account.
- From March 8 to March 11, 2013, Lucydrop and FriendlyChemist exchanged messages expressing concern over money owed.
- FriendlyChemist claimed Lucydrop was his supplier, having provided approximately $900,000 worth of narcotics on consignment. He had only received $200,000 from Lucydrop. Out of frustration, FriendlyChemis wrote to LucyDrops.
why are u and DPR fucking me over like thi s ! ? ! U said it was garnteed! now I am in big trouble and u are avoiding me! just give me my money that u owe!! money !!! Dont make me do something stupid. just give me my… I am going to contact DPR.”FriendlyChemist
- Lucydrop sent a message to FriendlyChemist stating, in substance and in part, that Lucydrop was waiting on Ulbricht to send the money and that FriendlyChemist should be paid in a couple days. But this did not happen.
- FriendlyChemist claimed to have hacked the Silk Road data base.
After some time FriendlyChemist threatened to release the identities of Silk Road users if he was not paid, including vendors and customers.
Friendly contacted Dread Pirate Roberts directly saying
“what do you and lucydrop think will happen if thousands of usernames, order amounts, addresses get leaked? all those peopl e will leave sr [Silk Road] and be scared to use it again . . those vendors will all be busted and all there [sic] customers will be exposed too and never go back to sr [Silk Road].”FriendlyChemist
RedAndWhite Account Created
- On March 19, 2013, James Ellingson registered the “redandwhite” account on Silk Road.
- Between March 25 and 26, 2013 (10 days later), Redandwhite contacted DPR and revealed being FriendlyChemist’s supplier, owed money, and having control over drug trafficking in Western Canada.
- From March 25 to April 2, 2013, Redandwhite and Ulbricht discussed a murder-for-hire scheme targeting FriendlyChemist, who was believed to be in British Columbia, Canada.
- On March 27th, Ellingson stated that
“In my eyes, FriendlyChemist is a liability and I wouldn’t mind if he was executed, but then you’d be out your $700k . I don’t think he is going to come up with the money because he seems very desperate. I’m not sure how much you already know about the guy, but I have the following info and waiting on getting his address”Redandwhite
- Ulbricht expressed willingness for FriendlyChemist to be executed but hesitated due to the outstanding debt.
- April 2, 2013, Redandwhite ·and DPR exchanged messages in which they discussed a murder-for- hire scheme. DPR then gave personal identifiers for the individual he believed to be FriendlyChemist. Redandwhite offered to “take care of FriendlyChemist” even if it meant losing out on the owed money.
The first murder for hire
“I wouldn’t mind if he was executed, but then you’d be out your $700k . I don’t think he is going to come up with the money because he seems very desperate. I’m not sure how much you already know about the guy, but I have the following info and waiting on getting his address.”Dread Pirate Roberts
- FriendlyChemist continued to threaten Ulbricht, demanding $500,000 within 72 hours or else revealing information about Silk Road users and vendors.
“u leave me no choice I want 500k usd within 72hrs, or I am going to post all the info I have. I can’t go back to my home and I had to move my kids and wife somewhere, and I need the money so I can move my family and start a new life. I hate to do this but I need the money, or I’m going to release it all. Over 5000 use+ details and about 2 dozen vender identities what’s it going to be?”FriendlyChemist
- Eventually, Redandwhite quotes prices of $300,000 for a clean murder and $150,000-$200,000 for a non-clean option. Redandwhite provides Ulbricht with a Bitcoin address for the $150,000 payment and offers picture confirmation of the job.
- DPR gave Redandwhite eight numbers to write on a paper for the murder confirmation picture.
- On Redandwhite assures DPR on April 1, 2013, that “the problem is taken care of and FriendlyChemist won’t blackmail anyone again.” Redandwhite sent the picture and requested DPR to “delete the picture as soon as you take a look at it.”
- DPR responds three days later, confirming that he’d seen and deleted the image… he didn’t (A thumbnail of a deleted photograph purporting to depict a male individual lying on a floor in a pool of blood with tape over his mouth was recovered from the Ulbricht Laptop by law enforcement)
- Thereafter Ulbricht and Redandwhite discuss an additional murder-for-hire scheme targeting four individuals associated with FriendlyChemist.
- On April 8, 2013, Ulbricht orders the murders, agreeing to pay $500,000, and sent 3,000 Bitcoins (worth $500,000) as payment. However, there is not as much information regarding these murders.
One of the folders on the laptop seized from Ross Ulbricht on his arrest contained a folder called “red save”. Included with the folder were photos referenced in his communications with Redandwhite, packaged drugs, and Canadian currency. As well as Ellingson’s driver’s licence. Indicating that Ulbricht knew redandwhite was James Ellingson.
Ellingson, was charged with one count of narcotics trafficking conspiracy and one count of narcotics importation conspiracy. These sentences carry a minimum sentence of 10 years each. Additionally, he was charged with one count of money laundering conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. It’s expected that Ellingson will likely see a life sentence for his crimes.
Despite relative messages, there is no information on the assassination mentioned in their messages. However, they were noted by the judge.
“Ellingson used the Dark Web to ship dangerous drugs around the world, including to New York City. He discussed with Silk Road’s founder a plot to kill five people and received hundreds of thousands of dollars in Bitcoin in exchange. Others who would try to hide in the shadows of the Internet should know that federal law enforcement will continue to uncover crime, wherever and however committed.”U.S. Attorney Damian Williams
While it seems clear there was an image of a dead body, the popular theory over this entire instance is that Ellingson scammed Ross. That Ellingson was also the owner of FriendlyChemist, and the man in the picture was only acting for the purpose of a complete job.
Either way, Ellingson’s relationship with Ulbricht was easily one of the more unique, and the entire case proves further that Ulbricht struggled to keep his market in order, failing to multiple hacks.
Hey there, I’m a dark web geek who’s been around for the last 8 years. More precisely, I’m livedarknet’s senior content writer who’s been writing about darknet marketplaces, tutorials, and cybersecurity stuff for educational purposes.