A Vancouver man has just been charged with conspiracy to sell drugs on the dark web site called the Silk Road. Interestingly, James Ellingson, 42, communicated with Silk Road owner Ross Ulbricbht using the handle “redandwhite” which is usually a reference to the Hells Angels.
A Vancouver man is wanted in the U.S for allegedly selling methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and other drugs through the notorious dark-web exchange known as the Silk Road.
James Ellingson, 42, was arrested Oct. 29 in Vancouver on charges of conspiracy to violate U.S. narcotics laws, conspiracy to import narcotics and conspiracy to money-launder between 2011 and 2013. Evidence gathered against Ellingson stemmed from the U.S. investigation into Silk Road founder Ross William Ulbricht, according to a recent B.C. Supreme Court bail ruling in the case.
Justice Joyce DeWitt-Van Oosten released Ellingson on bail earlier this month despite a U.S. request that he be held in custody. Ellingson, who has a criminal record on this side of the border, allegedly made $2 million using the dark web to sell his wares.
Ulbricht was arrested in October 2013, convicted in 2015 and sentenced to life in prison. After his arrest, the FBI seized various servers associated with Silk Road in Iceland, as well as backup servers in the U.S. The servers contained databases with Silk Road records showing various transactions, as well as private messages exchanged between Silk Road users, according to a U.S. affidavit quoted by DeWitt-Van Oosten in her Nov. 2 ruling.
The U.S. alleges Ellingson was using the online handle “Marijuanaismymuse” and was paid for his drug sales by Ulbricht using Bitcoin. Transactions for the Marijuanaismymuse account occurred between November 2011 and October 2013 and involved sales of meth, heroin, cocaine, LSD, MDMA and pot.
“U.S. authorities have gathered evidence that they say links James Ellingson to Marijuanaismymuse,” the B.C. judge said. “Some of the drug proceeds sent to Marijuanaismymuse were subsequently traced to two Bitcoin exchange accounts registered to Mr. Ellingson.” One of the accounts was opened in August 2013 under Ellingson’s name, using his email and provided his driver’s licence number and a utility bill. The other account was opened in May 2013, also using his name, identification and a Vancouver address.
“U.S. authorities obtained records from Google relating to Mr. Ellingson’s Gmail account. These records contained an email dated Sept. 23, 2013, with a username of Marijuanaismymuse and what appears to be a password to the Marijuanaismymuse Silk Road account,” the ruling said. “The Gmail records also contained notations of drug weights, names and prices consistent with server data from the Silk Road.”
The U.S. alleges Ellingson communicated with Ulbricht and received his Bitcoin payments under the username Redandwhite. A laptop recovered from Ulbricht contained a file labelled “save red” that contained photos referenced in his communications with Redandwhite. The photos showed “packaged drugs and Canadian currency.” And some showed a man in front of a building that the U.S. alleged looks like the picture on Ellingson’s driver’s licence.
DeWitt-Van Oosten said the U.S. is still putting together its package of evidence to support its extradition request for Ellingson. She said she had “relatively limited information about the nature of the offences with which Mr. Ellingson is charged and/or the evidence gathered in support.”
DeWitt-Van Oosten noted that Ellingson had “a criminal record that includes three convictions for possessing drugs for the purpose of trafficking, and one conviction for trafficking.” And he has been convicted of criminal harassment, possession of a prohibited or restricted weapon, assault and other crimes.
But she accepted his lawyer’s submission that the crimes were committed a long time ago, while he was suffering from addiction. She said Ellingson could be released on strict conditions because he had a supportive family willing to offer a $75,000 surety and a job.
“I appreciate that Mr. Ellingson has been charged with serious offences and, if extradited and convicted, he faces a lengthy period of imprisonment. I also appreciate that he has a criminal record for drug-trafficking,” DeWitt-Van Oosten said. “However, in consideration of the circumstances, as a whole, I am satisfied he has shown his detention in custody pending the extradition process is not justified.”