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Silk Road suspect Ross Ulbricht hit with three new drug charges
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Silk Road’s Ross Ulbricht found guilty, may face life sentence

Ross Ulbricht, the founder of notorious online underground marketplace Silk Road, has been convicted on seven criminal counts by a Manhattan federal jury and could face life in jail.

Jail bars. Image courtesy of ShutterstockRoss Ulbricht, the founder of notorious online underground marketplace Silk Road, has been convicted on seven criminal counts by a Manhattan federal jury and could face life in jail.

30-year-old Ulbricht, who went by the pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts”, launched the site, which was hidden on the Tor network, in early 2011.

In the two-and-a-half years before it was taken down in October 2013, it had facilitated over $200 million in secretive transactions, with drug sales making up the bulk of traffic.

Ulbricht is thought to have pocketed as much as $18 million from running the site, all in Bitcoin, the currency of choice of Silk Road’s international userbase.

The site didn’t only deal in drugs.

Details released by US attorneys at the time of Ulbricht’s original indictment in early 2014 claimed that alongside 13,000 posts selling “controlled substances”, the site also carried over 800 adverts for “Digital Goods” including malware and pirated software, 169 for forged documents including passports and driver’s licenses, and 159 “Service” listings.

These services included hacking-for-hire and assassinations – Ulbricht is alleged to have made six attempts to arrange murders in order to protect the site, although it has not been proven that any of these efforts resulted in a death. One of the “hitmen” hired by Ulbricht turned out to be an undercover agent.

Infiltration of the site by law enforcement was a major theme of the investigation, which began in 2011 when Silk Road started to be noticed outside the criminal underworld.

The tactics used to infiltrate and subvert the site were controversial, but proved successful.

Shortly after Silk Road was taken down a “reboot” brought Silk Road 2.0 online for a brief time, but many suspected that it was either a sting operation by law enforcement or an attempt to fleece fellow criminals – it appeared that the latter was the case when the site’s stash of Bitcoin vanished.

The suspected operators of the revived site were arrested in late 2014 and early 2015.

Ulbricht’s arrest in late 2013 was timed to coincide with the takeover of the site’s servers, with several more arrests taking place around the world in the following weeks.

Several other men linked to Silk Road entered guilty pleas within weeks of the takedown.

Ulbricht chose to contest the charges, having repeatedly claimed the site was a libertarian exercise powered by pure market forces. His defense team claimed he handed over control of the Silk Road site, along with the Roberts nickname, well prior to the takedown.

During the three-week trial they also implied Ulbricht had been the subject of a frame-up, with some evidence such as a detailed journal found on a laptop belonging to Ubricht described as “a little too convenient”.

This was rejected by jurors who found him guilty on all counts after just three hours of deliberation.

These counts included “narcotics conspiracy”, carrying a minimum penalty of 10 years and a potential life sentence, “engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise” with a minimum penalty of 20 years and again a possible life sentence, money laundering charges with sentences of up to 20 years and hacking charges which could earn 5 years. Further drug and forgery charges were added after the initial indictment.

Time will tell on the exact sentencing but it certainly looks like Ulbricht could be spending a lot of time behind bars.


A life sentence for online racketeering. Wow. On the other hand, no charges against a president and vice-president who wrecked the economy, invaded two countries on false pretenses, and broke the constitution. And no charges against intelligence chiefs who lie to congress. Sounds like “justice in America” to me.


Considering he conspired to commit murder, I’d say life is a fair sentence. You may not agree with the President, but I’m quite sure nothing he’s done compares to murder; all Presidents have bent the constitution.


The 4400 American soldiers that never left Iraq alive may disagree with you. Or the current refugees from the current war. All in all the Iraq invasion was a mistake. George’s approval rating and ranking as worst president in American history kind of support it.


The murder charges were ridiculous and were dropped.


Hey, Joe. How were they ridiculous? He put a hit out on six people and personally believed that the hits had actually been carried out on some of them, illustrating his genuine determination to have these people killed. Please provide something to substantiate your position beyond your simple, biased, assertion.


Another case of potentially throwing the book at an individual we’re angry at while he poses little danger to society. This is another example of everything that’s wrong with our criminal justice system.


If you were one of the six people on his alleged hit list, you might feel a bit differently about how much danger he posed…I suspect.


Paul, you keep insisting on murder conspiracy. It was dropped:
Please apologise to your readers.


He still faces charges in Maryland relating to a proposed hit, doesn’t he?

Also, wasn’t the fact that he approached a federal agent and enquired about taking someone out used and accepted in court as part of the “back story” that helped to dismantle his “wasn’t me” claims?


Joe, the charges were dropped, because they had so many other charges stacked up against him that additional charges for murder would have been a moot point–and both costly to pursue and wholly unnecessary. That’s why they were dropped, not because he was not guilt of attempted murder.

He clearly was guilty, and it’s actually very easy to find Ross’s actual online statements regarding these hits to verify this. These statements should convince any objective person that he really did intended to have people killed–which, in turn, indicates that his motives were based largely on personal selfishness rather than on some noble political goals.

And the key words here are “objective people.” I am actually quite amazed that you are so determined to make this guy a political hero that you are willing to reject every piece of evidence that doesn’t dovetail well your own personal prejudices.

You know Joe, I am a libertarian myself and am very sympathetic to the political notions that you are trying to impose on this guy, but the reality is, he is no hero–political or otherwise, and when people like you engage in this type of willful ignorance in an effort to defend such an indefensible position, you actually undermine the credibility of the Libertarian movement by presenting Libertarianism as being both biased and unthinking.

Joe, you are not doing any of us a favor by personally absolving this guy of some of the horrible things that he is clearly guilty of.


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