Creator Of Online Black Market Silk Road Faces Life Behind Bars After Guilty Verdict

Duncan MacRae is former editor and now a contributor to TechWeekEurope. He previously edited Computer Business Review's print/digital magazines and CBR Online, as well as Arabian Computer News in the UAE.

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Ross Ulbricht AKA Dread Pirate Roberts was found guilty of seven federal charges, including drug trafficking and money laundering

A Manhattan jury has ruled Ross Ulbricht, the founder of illegal online market place, Silk Road, guilty on all counts.

Web developer Ulbricht, 30, of San Francisco, who used the moniker ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’, was accused of creating Silk Road, a website where people could anonymously buy illegal goods and services by using bitcoins.

Silk_Road_Marketplace_Item_ScreenHacking, trafficking, laundering

He was arrested by the FBI in an October 2013 sting operation and subsequently charged in a Manhattan court by Preet Bharara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, with seven counts including computer hacking, money laundering and drug trafficking.

By the time Silk Road was shut down following Ulbricht’s arrest, the website had generated almost $213.9m in sales and $13.2m in commissions, prosecutors said.

Having examined Ulbricht’s computer, federal agents involved in the sting operation said they discovered Silk Road maintenance logs, to-do lists, weekly reports and online chat transcripts, along with a computer journal detailing the creation and development of the website. More than $13m worth of bitcoins were also found, most of which were traced back to Silk Road.

ulbrichtAt the start of the trial on January 13, Ulbricht’s lawyer, Joshua Dratel, told the jurors that his client had merely launched Silk Road as an “economic experiment,” before handing the reigns over to someone else after just a few months.

But prosecutors argued that there was no evidence to show Ulbricht turned his back on the black market as claimed. Ulbricht also claimed he had been set up as a “fall guy” by the former head of the bankrupt Mt. Gox Co. bitcoin exchange, Mark Karpeles, or by someone else who was the ‘real Dread Pirate Roberts’.

After a three week trial, the jury found Ulbricht guilty on all seven charges. Following the verdict, US Attorney Preet Bharara said: “The supposed anonymity of the dark web is not a protective shield from arrest and prosecution.”

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