Computer programmer sentenced to prison for making false statements about his involvement in the “Silk Road” website

 

Date: December 18, 2020
Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov
 
Michael R. Weigand, a/k/a “Shabang,” a/k/a “~Shabang~,” a/k/a “~s,” a/k/a “s,” was sentenced to eight months in prison today for making false statements to federal agents about his involvement in, and his work for, the “Silk Road” online illicit black market, which was responsible for distributing hundreds of millions of dollars of narcotics and other contraband. Weigand’s false statements concealed his role in the operation of the Silk Road website. Weigand previously pled guilty before United States District Judge William H. Pauley III, who also imposed today’s sentence.
 
According to the Information, court filings, statements made in court, and evidence presented during the 2015 trial of Ross Ulbricht, Silk Road’s founder and chief administrator:
 
Ulbricht created Silk Road in approximately January 2011, and owned and operated the underground website until it was shut down by law enforcement in October 2013. Silk Road emerged as the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet at the time. During its more than two-and-a-half years in operation, Silk Road was 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 one hundred thousand buyers, and to launder hundreds of millions of dollars deriving from these unlawful transactions. Silk Road was specifically designed to allow its users to buy and sell drugs and other illegal goods and services anonymously and outside the reach of law enforcement through the use of the Tor network and a Bitcoin-based payment system.
 
Weigand, a computer programmer and electrical engineer, worked with Roger Thomas Clark, the senior adviser to Ulbricht, on certain aspects of Silk Road. For instance, Weigand and Clark worked to identify technological vulnerabilities in the Silk Road website. Weigand also supplied technological advice directly to Clark and Ulbricht. After Silk Road was shut down in October 2013, Weigand laundered more than $75,000 in Silk Road proceeds. In addition, in late 2013, the Government disclosed that it had been able to access the contents of Ulbricht’s laptop computer, which identified Clark as Ulbricht’s right-hand man; shortly after this revelation, Clark transferred more than $20,000 to Weigand in Bitcoin, and Weigand traveled to Clark’s London residence and removed Silk Road evidence.
 
In January 2019, Weigand was questioned by IRS and FBI Special Agents. After being specifically warned that it is a federal crime to make a false statement to a federal law enforcement officer, Weigand attempted to cover up his involvement in Silk Road by falsely stating, among other things, that (1) he never opened an account on Silk Road; (2) he never used the online pseudonyms “Shabang” or “~Shabang~”; (3) he never transferred Bitcoin to Silk Road; (4) he never exposed computer security vulnerabilities in the Silk Road website; (5) he never communicated with anyone who used the online pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts,” “DPR,” or “Silk Road” (i.e., Ulbricht); (6) he never performed any services for the Silk Road website; and (7) 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 went to Clark’s London residence and removed physical Silk Road evidence.
 
In addition to his prison term, Weigand, of Kirtland, Ohio, was sentenced to three years of supervised release.
 
The founder and operator of Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, was previously convicted of seven offenses after a jury trial: distributing narcotics, distributing narcotics by means of the Internet, conspiring to distribute narcotics, engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiring to commit computer hacking, conspiring to traffic in false identity documents, and conspiring to commit money laundering. Ulbricht was sentenced principally to life in prison and $183 million in forfeiture.
 
Ulbricht’s senior adviser, Roger Thomas Clark, pled guilty to conspiring to distribute narcotics and his sentencing is currently pending. Clark faces a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison.
  
Boston Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, the New York and Washington Field Offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New York Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations, and the New York City Police Department conducted the investigation. FBI’s Cleveland Office assisted in the investigation.
 
This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Michael D. Neff is in charge of the prosecution.