Revealed: Details from the Case of the First Silk Road Vendor to Be arrested

Individuals believed the Silk Road to be a safe spot to conduct drug transactions when it launched in 2011. Before the site shut down in 2013, law enforcement made several arrests tied directly to Silk Road deals. One in particular stands out: the first arrest of a Silk Road vendor.

In 2012, Australian Federal Police (AFP) arrested Paul Howard aka “shadh1.” Only few details were known about the actual case. Outside of his local precinct, the public only knew of the drugs and the charges placed against him. The county court of Victoria released court documents pertaining to Howard’s case and some of the details stand out. The the AFP’s investigation was espescially unique.

Between March 2012 to June 2012, Australia’s Customs and Border Protection Service intercepted 12 mail packages addressed to the home of Howard and his wife. The packs contained MDMA in both pill and powder form. Drugs were disguised in items like a DVD case, piece of card, and a cigarette lighter.

Customs continued to intercept packages and seize them for evidence. None of the seized packages made it to Howard. However, undelivered packs did not stop Howard from making more orders, the court document explained. Some orders were from the same vendors. In total, the packages imported had a combined weight of 46.9 grams of MDMA. The total weight imported was 93 times the marketable quantity, resulting in the trafficking charges.

AFP raided his Brunswick home. Every piece of seized evidence could put him away for the trafficking charges. Police found 989 grams of cannabis as well as immature cannabis plants. They seized 14.5 grams of cocaine and 50 grams of MDMA. Scales and zip-loc bags were found on the scene. Police also found envelopes with addresses from the Netherlands and Canada. Some of the envelopes containing MDMA were already sealed and ready for shipment.

The police then searched his BMW and found sugar cubes containing what was, at the time, an “unknown” substance. A local contact has since reported that the cubes contained LSD. Howard was not charged with possession of LSD because the AFP tested the cubes for cocaine.

Digital evidence seized from the crime scene tied Howard to his Silk Road moniker “shadh1,” as well as his selling of drugs in person. Police found 148 dealing or buying related texts on his phone, including several referencing Silk Road. Howard searched Google for “Does Australia Post record tracking” and “Silk Road Tor address.” Law enforcement used the searches against him in court. His computers contained photos of Howard with drugs. Pictures of the man’s car also contributed to the investigation. Howard’s black BMW had the license plate “shadh1” and he routinely posed with it.

The prosecution examined thousands text messages on Howard’s cell phone and found several relevant messages. He texted an acquaintance “I got 5 grand worth if you want. I sold 200 cubes last week,” and to another “no cubes left atm but some other ‘things’ u might like!”

Howard helped police search his computer where they found a message posted on Silk Road. The message specifically marked when Howard started selling online.

As posted:

Hey guys, I’m just starting out here. I’m Aus based and only shipping to Aus so as not to roach on anyone’s turf. I’ll be basically doing dutch speed and peruvian charlie to start and branch into more as I get coin back in my pocket. I source from both sr and non sr vendors but I prefer the sr system as far as selling securely is concerned! So yeh that’s me story and I’m keen for any tips or just some chat from you guys as I’m still learning!

Howard pleaded guilty to charges of importing a marketable quantity of a border-controlled drug. He also pleaded guilty to trafficking controlled drugs and possessing 32 controlled weapons.

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