In a blizzard-shortened session yesterday, IRS Special Agent Gary Alford took the stand and described how agents were led to Ross Ulbricht.
Alford did not catch up to Ulbricht until September 2013, a month before his arrest. It was at that time that he simply Googled “Silk Road” and “.onion” – the latter being the extension for dark net sites. He found a 2011 post on bitcoin.org, which is still up. It quoted another post from a user named “altoid”:
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“What an awesome thread! You guys have a ton of great ideas. Has anyone seen Silk Road yet? It’s kind of like an anonymous amazon.com. I don’t think they have heroin on there, but they are selling other stuff. They basically use bitcoin and tor to broker anonymous transactions.”
Instructions were then provided on how to get to Silk Road. Alford then searched all of altoid’s posts and found one seeking “the best and brightest IT pro in the bitcoin community to be the lead developer in a venture backed bitcoin startup company.” Incredibly, the poster wrote that interested parties should send an e-mail to “rossulbricht at gmail dot com.”
Alford apparently obtained a search warrant to access Ulbricht’s Gmail account, where he discovered a heap of additional evidence that closely matched up with what was later discovered on Ulbricht’s laptop.