At age 22, the Dutchman had made a quantity of bitcoins that today would be equivalent to more than 23 billion dollars. Until the FBI set him up.
A few days ago and after 9 years in prison, one of the most famous virtual drug traffickers on the internet, the Dutchman Cornelis Jan “Maikel” Slomp, was released from prison, known as the “Pablo Escobar of the Silk Road ” due to his immense fortune in bitcoins that he managed to harvest in less than two years of activities on the dark web.
Slomp was serving a 15-year prison sentence, after being arrested on one of his “business” trips to the United States, and pleading guilty in a trial that faced the possibility of spending 40 years to life in prison.
He was only 22 years old at the time and was already a billionaire. His fortune consisted of 380,000 bitcoins, which were worth $ 3.5 million at the time and today are more than $ 23,411 million. He gave them all in exchange for an agreement with the American federals that would reduce his time in prison.
He finally lasted nine years behind bars, as he was released early for humanitarian reasons. In prison he contracted COVID-19 and had to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, but he managed to recover fully and is now back at his family’s home in the small town of Woerden (Netherlands).
In his new life back to freedom, this ‘former boss’ of the dark web still does not think that what he did was wrong, but he affirms that he does not think about trafficking again, because his story became so famous that such a level of exposure it would be anything but good for business.
Silk Road: the start-up that became a drug market place.
The dark web is a curious place, or better, for the curious. It is that hidden layer of the internet that is not passed through thousands of filters in code that, to say the least, limit the web that we normally access.
That freedom that the dark web enjoys – which cannot be accessed unless you have a special browser like Tor – allows you to find literally everything there. From the black market of weapons, drugs, child pornography, human trafficking, free access to the virtual libraries of the most prestigious universities in the world and anything else imaginable.
All this, however, is not within the reach of a click and depends on “host” or pages that function as a kind of Reedit forum where information can be accessed.
The fact is that in 2011 a young entrepreneur named Ross Ulbricht decided to make his dream of ending the war on drugs and the violence that comes with it come true by creating an anonymous, safe and online market for its commercialization.
Thus was born Silk Road , a kind of Amazon of the dark web, where people could trade all kinds of recreational drugs, from MDMA or heroin, to cocaine, ecstasy or marijuana. The key was that the transactions were anonymous, and the drugs were sent by mail.
A week Silk Road could move about $ 500,000 in sales, all of them made with bitcoin. Thus Ulbricht, better known by the pseudonym of the ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ , became an anonymous tycoon, who ran his virtual drug cartel between public cafes in Sillycon Valley, to stay off the radar of the authorities.
Soon its market place began to fill with products beyond drugs, and in it other things began to be trafficked, such as small arms, assault rifles, hacking tools or poisons to commit suicide.
Within Silk Road, several characters proliferated who amassed fortunes in a short time, thanks to the platform created by Pirate Roberts. Slomp, or “SuperTrips” as it was known, was the most famous among the dealers of MDMA and other hard drugs.
But there were others, too, like Sheldon Kennedy, “the Nebraska arms smuggler”; Olivia Bolles, a gynecologist-turned-drug dealer, Steven Lloyd Sadler and Jenna White, a heroin and methamphetamine-selling couple who were dubbed the “Bonnie and Clyde of Silk Road”; or “The Pacific Northwest Union”, made up of Jason Hagen, Chelsea Reder, Richard Webster and Donald R. Bechen, accused of selling large amounts of methamphetamine using the dark web.
All were captured and their operations dismantled, in the investigations that followed the fall of the Dread Pirate Roberts , who tried to make the full pass as drug lord after he ordered the murder of someone who had allegedly robbed a client on his platform .
The link to carry out the coup was an undercover DEA agent and that was the final blow for Silk Road, which went out of operation in 2013.
Ulbricht was captured in October of that year, when a programming error exposed the IP address of a cafe where the pirate used to go. There he was captured, with tens of millions of dollars in Bitcoin on his laptop and enough evidence to sentence him to life in jail. He had two million more bitcoins in two memories that he kept on the nightstand in his room. He had only two dollars in his pocket.
The Dread Pirate Roberts today is serving a life sentence in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, where he is a neighbor of Chapo Guzmán, without the possibility of being released on parole.
‘SuperTrips’: From programmer to Pablo Escobar of the dark web
In 2012, Cornelis Jan “Maikel” Slomp was a 21-year-old programmer who had an office job at a company in his hometown. He was a drug user, especially MDMA.
On any given day, he came across an episode of ‘Spuite en Slikken’ (Inject and Swallow) on television, a popular talk show about sex and drugs that was broadcast by the NPO network on Dutch television. The episode was about Silk Road, about the Terrible Pirate Roberts and the boom of the platform, they even explained how to find the site and the use of Bitcoin as a currency for purchases.
Slomp wanted to buy MDMA, but the drug was in short supply, so he decided to search the platform for it. He found little offer, so he had an idea: if MDMA was the most wonderful thing he had ever tried – he did not like liquor, marijuana or cigarettes – everyone should do it, and if no one was selling, he was going to do it.
Something that worked in Slomp’s favor is that the Netherlands is one of the largest producers of MDMA in the world, so getting cheap drugs in Amsterdam was a relatively easy step, and by reselling them online, their price increased considerably for the value they had. in the other countries.
This is how he set up “SuperTrips”, a profile that existed within Silk Road that he began to manage as a whole company . In order to ship the drug, he started buying DVD boxes in bulk and loading them with the product vacuum sealed. The boxes then went in envelopes that were sent abroad by international mail.
In his first month as a ‘narco’ he earned $ 18,000, and that he barely trafficked in his free time, as he was still working as a programmer. But seeing how successful his operation was, he quit the job and began expanding, hiring other people to help him run the site.
During his boom he began to spend large amounts of money, he bought several cars, such as a Bentley, two Audis and a Mercedes Benz. Clearly, he began to attract attention for his sudden money, so he came up with an alibi for a software company that he had supposedly founded and was having a great time.
His life also changed, and he became a regular participant in the most exclusive party circuits in Europe and the United States , where he traveled regularly for business reasons.
That also caught the attention of the authorities, although at first Slomp believed that he would only have to deal with the Dutch. He spent a few days in jail when at a party he was found in possession of drugs. If they had searched his house then, they would have found many more, as well as his base of illegal operations, but he dodged the bullet and felt untouchable.
He did not know that the FBI was also on his trail in the United States, one of its main destinations in the shipment of DVD boxes loaded with amphetamines and other designer drugs.
One of those boxes, which was intercepted by the feds, had his fingerprints on it, allowing Slomp to be identified. By then Ultrich had fallen, and in the United States the FBI and DEA were determined to dismantle all operations using Silk Road.
Also by then Slomp felt that he already had enough money to retire, in addition, he was tired of working so much, so when someone showed up offering to take over his entire business, it did not seem such a bad idea to travel to the United States to close the deal. .
He fell into the trap. As soon as he touched US soil, a police car and some handcuffs were waiting for him. He couldn’t even get into the Lamborghini he had booked to party while in America.
In 2014, the sentence against Slomp came out and with it the biggest ‘kingpin’ of Silk Road, the Pablo Escobar of the dark web, was put to an end.
According to court documents, in the long year of his reign, Slomp managed to sell 104 kilograms of MDMA, 566,000 ecstasy pills, four kilograms of cocaine and “substantial amounts” of amphetamine, LSD, marijuana, ketamine and Xanax.
During his time in prison, he had to experience the plight of American prisoners first-hand. The constant transfers, isolation and loneliness. He says that the country’s prison system is a big bureaucratic tangle and that he plans to dedicate himself to setting up a consultancy to help other inmates navigate it.
He does not think he will have a normal job again, because who would hire him? His background is better in a movie script than in a resume, and that option is also on the table as he is selling his story to various film studios . What’s more, relatively recently, in 2017, NPO, the network that ran the show that got him interested in Silk Road in the first place, made a TV movie about the infamous dark web drug market, although the result was disliked. much to Slomp and had his lawyers sue the channel.
“People will use drugs no matter what. But on Silk Road, they knew they were of good quality. I had all the substances tested , ” says Slomp in a recent interview with Vice.
He may be right, because in every drug story there is an underlying moral debate. The truth is that although he did not kill hundreds of people, as the real Escobar did, this digital narco sold so many drugs to gain comparison with the Colombian capo, and incidentally, lose nine years of his life in a jail.