An Edgewood drug dealer pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to supplying customers around the world through the Silk Road online marketplace.
Jacob Theodore George IV, 32, admitted to agents with the Department of Homeland Security in January 2012 that he sold heroin and methylone — a synthetic drug often marketed as "bath salts" — using the hidden site.
Silk Road was taken down and its alleged founder arrested at a San Francisco library early last month. George's attorney said he had been in custody since last year, but the charges against him were not filed until after the bust. A Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman said George was among the first people to plead guilty as part of the investigation into the site.
George's alias, listed in court documents as "digitalink," first appeared in the Silk Road forums, which are still online, on June 29, 2011. Forum posts by that user portray a dealer who aggressively marketed his products — offering free samples and promoting their potency — but one who also fell into disrepute among some of his customers as authorities closed in.
George had been in trouble in the past. In 2005, the same federal judge who accepted his plea Tuesday sentenced him to two years and three months in prison for running an eBay scam.
In 2011, George set up shop on Silk Road, then a growing market less than a year old.
Until last month, the site ran on a hidden corner of the Internet that masked the real-world locations of its servers and users. Customers paid for drugs using Bitcoins, a virtual currency that is difficult to trace.
Users of the site also adopted outlandish names to conduct business. Ross William Ulbricht, the site's alleged founder, used Dread Pirate Roberts. Ulbricht faces federal drug and attempted-murder charges in Maryland, as well as other counts filed in New York.
While Ulbricht is alleged to have made millions of dollars from running the Silk Road, George's operation was more modest and early on attracted attention from authorities.
In July 2011, digitalink wrote that a postal inspector had contacted him about a package that was leaking white powder, according to a post on the Silk Road forums. Other users urged him not to try to recover the parcel, but digitalink wrote that he was going to attempt it because methylone was not at that time explicitly banned.
"I apologized sincerely and talked about how bad the world is and sorry for this mishap," a post by digitalink reads, recounting a purported phone conversation with the inspector. "[I] explained that's the reason why I called to make sure they didn't worry that it was toxic and told them it was Methylone, we were going to use it for our garden."
The following day, he posted again on the forums reporting success.
"I'm so [expletive] slick I just got my methylone that was damaged back today, re-delivered," digitalink wrote.
Shortly before federal agents tracked George down, digitalink announced on the forums that he had a new batch of "scramble," a mix of heroin and quinine, for sale. Some of his customers gave the product good reviews.
"The rush was pretty intense as described," wrote a user named drugfather. "I had a full body high and the pretty good nods for about 4 hours. The body high lasted 'till almost 10pm!"
But in January 2012, George admitted to agents with Homeland Security Investigations that he had been selling drugs on Silk Road, according to court documents. He had been purchasing heroin from dealers in the Baltimore area and importing the methylone from China.
It is not clear from George's plea agreement how or exactly when authorities located him, but he granted investigators access to emails, shipping records and financial statements related to his business, according to the document.
About the same time, some users began to post warnings that orders they had placed were not showing up — some said they had lost thousands of dollars.
On Jan. 19, 2012, digitalink posted that he was taking a hiatus from selling on Silk Road because of the hassle he was getting from users of the site.
"I have been burned 4 times, robbed once and put up with Silk Road drama and all the trolls on the boards," he wrote five days earlier. "We put our freedom on the line to bring you our products. You know, I have a family, children and I'm not a pixel.
"This is real life, I do this to support myself and my family and risk losing it all."
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