Homeland Security Agent Testifies About Role in Silk Road Arrests

By Paul Gaita 01/26/15

Jared Der-Yeghiayan participated in over 50 drug buys online.

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Ross Ulbricht Photo via

Jared Der-Yeghiayan testified in a Manhattan federal court this week about his infiltration of the online black market site Silk Road, which contributed to the arrest of its owner, Ross Ulbricht, on conspiracy to commit narcotics trafficking, among other charges.

Der-Yeghiayan, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security special agent, began his involvement with Silk Road in 2012 as part of a federal investigation into the site as an online market for illegal drugs.

After participating in more than 50 drug buys on Silk Road, Der-Yeghiayan seized the account of a lead website administrator who went by the name Cirrus. Through that account, he reported directly to the site’s shadowy operator, Dread Pirate Roberts, who paid him $1,000 per week to manage Silk Road’s forums and answer user questions.

Der-Yeghiayan stated in court that he considered Mark Karpeles, chief executive of the Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, as the true identity of Roberts, who reportedly earned more than $1 million in commissions from the site’s various transactions. Ulbricht also allegedly used it to call for the murders of six individuals.

Ulbricht’s defense attorney Joshua Dratel echoed the allegation in his questioning, presenting the idea that Karpeles offered to give up the real identity of Roberts in exchange for immunity. Der-Yeghiayan himself admitted that he was unsure of Roberts’ true identity until an IRS agent put forward Ulbricht as the likely candidate.

On October 1, 2013, while FBI agents kept close tabs on Ulbricht, Der-Yeghiayan attempted to root out Roberts by initiating a chat with him. When Roberts responded to a request to chat on the Silk Road site from Der-Yeghiayan, federal prosecutors said that agents found Ulbricht signed into the site as Dread Pirate Roberts and arrested him.

Ulbricht is currently facing four counts of federal charges, including money laundering conspiracy and computer hacking. If convicted, he faces up to a life sentence in prison.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.