Alleged Silk Road Mastermind Is ‘Honest And Kind’, Says $1m Bail Application

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

Follow on: Google +

Man accused of running the illegal marketplace under the alias ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ receives a vote of confidence

Friends and family of Ross Ulbricht, the man accused of creating and running the illegal Silk Road marketplace that was shut down by the FBI in October, have put together $1 million for his bail application.

The hefty sum is meant to guarantee that Ulbricht, who is currently being held in solitary confinement at Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Centre, will not flee the country if he is allowed to live with his aunt in New York while his trial is ongoing.

Silk Road was founded in 2011 and sold everything from drugs and weapons to malware, forged documents and stolen credit card details. However, the letter submitted in support of the application for bail by Ulbricht’s defence lawyer describes him as an honest and kind man with “an incredibly strong set of principles that he lives by” and “a long reputation for fulfilling his obligations”. The bail hearing is set for Thursday.

Mr Nice

ross1

Silk Road was an unregulated marketplace that could only be accessed through the anonymous Tor protocol. It was run by an entity known only as the ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’, and used Bitcoin as the currency of choice.

The FBI claims that over 9.5 million bitcoins had been traded on the Silk Road since the site went live, constituting roughly 80 percent of all BTC currently in circulation. During Ulbricht’s arrest, law enforcement agencies confiscated 26,000 BTC, worth approximately $3.6 million – the largest ever seizure of virtual currency.

The letter claims that even if the 29-year-old suspect was managing the site, he has no funds left to fund a potential escape. Twenty-four people have signed the document testifying to Ulbricht’s good character, and his parents went as far as to put up their family home, worth around $700,000, as part of the bail package.

Ulbricht has no criminal record and according to the letter, he had even created a non-profit organisation that donates used books to prison libraries. For these reasons, his parents are “confident he will comply with conditions of release even though they are aware of the gravity of the allegations in this case”.

The support letter also claims that if Ulbricht was indeed Dread Pirate Roberts, he would have fled the country after being approached by federal agents for the first time, months before his arrest.

Ulbricht’s description by his friends and family stands in sharp contrast with that of the administrator of the Silk Road, who allegedly attempted to hire a hitman when a trader threatened to reveal the inner workings of the website, only for the would-be assassin turned out to be an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent.

Meanwhile, a much talked about successor to the Silk Road has already launched, administered by someone calling themselves… the Dread Pirate Roberts.

What do you know about crime and punishment in the digital age? Take our quiz!