deciding to murder -- 11/27/17

Today's selection -- from American Kingpin by Nick Bilton. Ross Ulbricht was a suburban kid from Austin, Texas who had started the Silk Road, the "Amazon of the Dark Web," a place where you could buy drugs, guns, and even organs. But the vast power and riches that came with the success of the Silk Road went to his head, and when Curtis Green, one of his employees, was arrested by the DEA, this suburban kid was all too willing to commit murder to keep that employee from "singing" to the cops:

"Ross had figured that one day it might come to this. That one day he would be faced with this kind of ruthless decision-to 'call on my muscle,' as he'd told an associate. When that day came, he'd imag­ined that maybe he would have to end the life of a dealer gone rogue or someone who threatened the mission of the Silk Road. But not one of his own people. And certainly not Curtis Green from Spanish Fork, Utah.

"While this decision was daunting for DPR, [or Dread Pirate Roberts, Ross's alias], at least one part of it would be easy: figuring out who would do the job. With so much cash on hand, it turned out there were plenty of people who were willing and able to murder someone -- particularly in a barren stretch of Utah. ... DPR decided the job would have to be done by [an associate named] Nob, the South American drug dealer he had become so close to.

"After all, it was Nob who had lost a kilo of 'Colombia's finest' when Green had been busted by the DEA a week earlier, a salient fact that Ross had discovered by a simple Google search of Curtis Green's name after he didn't show up to work one day, which had led him to a Web site that catalogued recent arrests.

"There, in all its glory, was the mug shot of his chubby employee. Ross hadn't imagined this was what he would be dealing with when he woke on a cold winter's morning in early 2013. At first when he found out about Green, the only thing he could do was feel sick to his stomach. ... Then, a couple of hours later, the taste of vomit was quickly turning into one of vengeance.

"DPR spoke to all of his associates about what to do. There was a real fear that Green would sing to the cops about the Silk Road, telling the Feds about the innards of the site, how it worked, and who was involved with it. That, plus the $350,000 [Green had apparently stolen], left Ross with essentially three options for how to handle his rogue employee.

"The first possibility was the easiest: to simply pay a visit to Green at his home in Spanish Fork, Utah, and scare him into returning the money he had stolen. The second was more difficult -- but definitely more just -- and involved beating Green for his unscrupulous treason. Maybe one of DPR's guys would bind Green to a chair, slap him around a bit, break a few fingers, a nose, threaten his family, and scare him into returning that money. But there was a problem with both of these choices; If word got out that it was okay to sing to the cops and steal hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, the Dread Pirate Roberts wouldn't be the most feared pirate sailing the Dark Web, but rather a weakling pushover. The Silk Road would be known as a place where you could break the rules without reprisal.

"This led to the third option for Green: killing him. Decisions, decisions.
How quickly life changes. One minute you're making $300 a week as a college researcher. You're sleeping in a basement and your only belongings are two black garbage bags, one full of clean clothes, the other dirty, and your biggest worry in the world is whether the pretty girl with the black curly hair whom you just met at the drum circle will call you back. Then an idea hits you. It starts as just a thought, like a kid's daydream of a giant invention. But once it becomes lodged there in your mind, it won't go away. Then something happens, like a bolt of lightning striking a kite, or mold accidentally contaminating an experiment, and you realize this idea is actu­ally possible. You type lines of code into your computer and out comes a world that didn't exist before. There are no laws here, except your laws. You decide who is given power and who is not. And then you wake up one morning and you're not you anymore; you're one of the most notorious drug dealers alive. And now you're deciding if someone should live or die. You're the judge in your own court. You're God." ...

"'I would have no problem wasting this guy,' DPR [said]. And in eight words the hit was put out on Curtis Green. With a few strokes on his keyboard, the creator of the Silk Road had just sanctioned his first murder."



Nick Bilton


American Kingpin


Penguin Press


Copyright 2017 by Nick Bilton


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