More worlds far away I’ll never visit, including a fraud education tidbit for CPAs.

Image of in-person illegal drug sale courtesy of Adobe Stock. I don’t quite know what image to use for an illegal on-line sale.

There are many dark places on the underside of life that I will never see. One item on the long list of reasons why I blog is to look into those places by explaining what I read on the ‘net. I describe those places as worlds far away that I’ll never visit.

Two topics for today:

  • Deep background on Silk Road, the marketplace for anything
  • Selling positive pregnancy tests online

From 2013 through 2015 I wrote about 10 articles on Silk Road and the Dread Pirate Roberts who ran that dark world where you could buy anything you wanted. You could buy drugs, weapons, forged passports, poison, anything. You can find my old posts here.

Turns out Dread Pirate Roberts (an unfortunate choice of names that sullies the reputation of one of the best slap stick movies ever!) is Ross William Ulbricht. He is currently serving a life sentence at the New York Metropolitan Correctional Center. The Bureau of Prison website lists his release date as “Life.”

Now there is a full length book describing his assent to the peak of the dark world and descent into a life of free federal housing for the rest of his natural life. At a current age of 33, that will be a looooong time.

6/13/17 – Wall Street Journal – The Dark Web’s Dark Prince Review describes American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road.

Review summarizes the origin of Silk Road, its rapid growth, and challenges of running an organization with a billion dollars of illegal sales.

Reviewer suggests there is not really that much unusual about Mr. Ulbricht: he suggests people who love Ayn Rand, have extreme confidence, and can build a competent website are on both sides of each street at every corner of Silicon Valley.

All of what happened took place on-line, so the drama we usually see in criminal stories isn’t present. (Although the way the feds physically grabbed his opened laptop while he was using it is quite entertaining.) One of the ripple effects is that Mr. Ulbricht left a massive paper trail, albeit in electronic bits and bytes.

The review says the book didn’t go into a lot of technical detail. In contrast, one of the positive reviews at Amazon said the book provided a lot of tech info on the case.

I’ve added the book to my wish list – don’t know if I will ever make the time to read it.

And in another dark corner of the underside of life…

12/19/16 – Huffington Post – Woman Claims She’s Paying College Bills With Positive Pregnancy Tests – I would never think of this scam on my own but having had my brain stretched far enough to grasp the concept, it makes sense.

A pregnant woman looking at her college tuition costs came up with the idea of selling positive pregnancy tests. Or if you prefer, she can sell you some urine, which will obviously be off the chart on key hormones since she is three months along.

The Huffington Post investigated her listing, reporting that she doesn’t care if you are pulling a  prank or blackmailing some executive for whom you are his on-the-sly-mistress. Price is $25 for 1, discount price of $35 for two if you are driving a long way to pick up your fake test results.

Yeah, I can see you might want to buy two in case you need to pretend to do a retest to persuade your mark that you really are pregnant. Also might be a good idea not to get the results in the mail – – couldn’t risk getting discovered.

I’m not sure whether to put this in the positive “there is a market for everything” category or the negative “worlds far far away I’ll never visit” bucket.

One thing I do know – this is a scheme that this little ol’ CPA would never dream up, but having read about it this CPA needs to file it away in my real-life fraud education lessons.

My tweet described the story this way:

File this away in the same category as buying-an-envelope-full-of-blank-restaurant-and-taxi-receipts …

As an auditor, I am constantly amazed at the dark creativity of the human mind.

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