Policy & Law
Yesterday afternoon, someone wrote a short post on the music and culture forum Hipinion titled, "My housemate got arrested for hacking." A recent San Francisco transplant posting under the handle "Jef Costello" claimed he came home to find his housemate gone, and a search and seizure order that mentioned hacking, the anonymizing software Tor, the virtual currency Bitcoin, and Silk Road in his place.
"Dude was kinda vague about what he did for a living, so this isn't too surprising, I guess," he wrote. "Rent is due tomorrow :S."
To other members of the forum, the story sounded immediately familiar.
"Is your housemate Ross William Ulbricht," another user asked, referring to the man who was arrested for running the online drug operation known as Silk Road.
"Fuuuuuccccck," wrote Jef.
If Jef is in fact Ulbricht's roommate, he didn't know much; Jef said he hadn't even known Ulbricht's last name until Monday. Ulbricht is a "really nice person, very smart," and the two had bonded over the social science tome Gödel, Escher, Bach. Ulbricht was artistic; he showed Jef his DeviantART page a few weeks before the arrest.
"On Saturday nite we went to the beach and later we jammed. He played his Djembe drum while I played piano and my friend sang. Everything seems really surreal right now," Jef wrote.
He played his Djembe drum while I played piano
It's possible that Jef is an imposter. However, Ulbricht's roommates are named Jeff and Chris, according to his best friend René Pinnell. Jef also posted a recent picture of a smiling Ulbricht with a puppy in a sack around his neck, saying it was from Saturday night.
The feds left things tidy after they searched the apartment, Jef said, although they did misplace an old PowerBook G4 that was sitting under the coffee table. "It doesn't turn on and I can only assume the cops thought it was 'the device' when they first saw it," he wrote.
Ulbricht has been charged with narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy in New York. He has also been charged in Maryland with drug offenses as well as ordering a hitman to kill a Silk Road employee. (The hitman turned out to be a cop.) His roommate, friends, and relatives all describe him as mild and kind, a stark contrast with the criminal mastermind known on the Silk Road as Dread Pirate Roberts.
Ulbricht's roommate, friends, and relatives describe him as mild and kind
Jef seems to have gotten a little spooked after posting his tale. "I have nothing to hide regarding all this, but I am still extremely shaken/anxious," he wrote. He echoed a suggestion that the thread be moved to a members-only area "so only the FBI can listen in and not CNN." The page is now inaccessible to non-privileged members. The Verge was unable to reach Jef for comment.
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