A key player in the now-defunct "Silk Road" darknet marketplace who hid his involvement with the creation and operation of the website has been sentenced to eight months in federal prison for making false statements to federal investigators, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Michael R. Weigand, who went by the online handle "Shabang," was sentenced Friday, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which oversaw the case, reports. He pleaded guilty in September to concealing his role in operating the Silk Road website (see: Former 'Silk Road' Associate Pleads Guilty to Lying to Feds).
Silk Road, which was shut down by law enforcement officials in October 2013, was a darknet platform used by thousands of alleged drug dealers and illicit actors to sell narcotics, computer hacking services, fake identification and firearms.
In the indictment, prosecutors alleged that Weigand made false statements to agents from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and FBI regarding his involvement with the organization.
"Michael Weigand supplied technological advice directly to the leadership of Silk Road, a secret online marketplace for criminal activity," U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss notes. "He laundered Silk Road proceeds and traveled overseas to remove Silk Road evidence from a co-conspirator's residence. Weigand subsequently lied to law enforcement, falsely claiming to have done nothing for Silk Road, and has now been sentenced to prison for that knowing falsehood."
Weigand's Role at Silk Road
Described as a developer and engineer, Weigand provided direct technical support to the leadership of Silk Road, identified cybersecurity vulnerabilities in Silk Road's website and traveled abroad to remove evidence of Silk Road's involvement in fraudulent schemes from a co-conspirator's IT network, the Justice Department says.
When questioned by investigators, Weigand lied, telling them he never opened an account on Silk Road and never used the online pseudonym "Shabang," prosecutors say. He also lied when he denied transferring bitcoin to Silk Road and exposing computer security vulnerabilities within the Silk Road website. And he misled authorities when he denied having contact with the founder of Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, who was known by the online pseudonym "Dread Pirate Roberts," "DPR," or "Silk Road," the Justice Department says.
Weigand further misled investigators concerning his trip to London in late 2013. Although he claimed the trip concerned a potential marijuana business, the Justice Department found Weigand traveled to remove evidence of Silk Road from an IT network belonging to Roger Thomas Clark, a senior adviser to Ulbricht.
Weigand also worked as a direct technological adviser to both Ulbricht and Clark, according to federal prosecutors.
Ulbricht started and operated Silk Road from January 2011 until it was shut down, when he was arrested. Ulbricht was later sentenced to life in federal prison.
In addition to providing a platform for alleged drug dealers and illicit actors to sell drugs, computer hacking services, fake identification and firearms, the Silk Road site also laundered the money made through these activities. The Justice Department believes Silk Road had a peak of more than 100,000 customers and laundered hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Daily Beast and other news outlets have reported that President Donald Trump is considering a pardon for Ulbricht, SilkRoad's founder.