Silk Road’s Creator Ross William Ulbricht May Face Life for Bitcoin-Drug Bazaar

The alleged owner of online black market Silk Road may experience life in prison if convicted in a trial where the members of the jury will hear accusations.

Photo: 5im3n/Flickr

Photo: 5im3n/Flickr

Ross William Ulbricht, the alleged owner of Silk Road, the $1.2 billion online black market where drugs and other illegal goods could be bought anonymously using bitcoins, that was seized and shut down in October 2013, may experience life in prison if convicted in a trial where the members of the jury will hear accusations.

According to prosecutors, Ross William Ulbricht or “Dread Pirate Roberts,” as he was allegedly known online, operated “the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet.”

Besides, they claimed that Ulbricht took extreme steps to protect Silk Road by arranging the murder of people who posed a threat to his business. There is no evidence that the murders have been accomplished. Ross Ulbricht’s online name was taken from a character in film “The Princess Bride.”

“It’s being alleged as a worldwide enterprise with folks everywhere, and the quantities that are alleged are huge,” Katherine B. Forrest, U.S. District Judge who will supervise the Manhattan trial, told lawyers in a hearing in December.

Looking back, Ulbricht was arrested on October 1, 2013, at a San Francisco library, where he was caught by FBI agents after logging onto his computer as “Dread Pirate Roberts.” The agents seized Silk Road together with bitcoins worth $3.6 million, and shut down the site on October 2, 2013.

Ulbricht was charged in Manhattan with conspiracy to commit narcotics trafficking, computer hacking and money laundering for a scheme extended from January 2011 through September 2013. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial in New York in January. According to court recordings, the site achieved $80 million in commissions on sales of more than $1 billion in less than three years.

Jury selection is scheduled for Tuesday in Manhattan federal court. Ross Ulbricht faces up to life in prison if convicted. His proponents are bitcoin enthusiasts and libertarians, who consider the case an attack on Internet freedom.

“The charges in this case are extremely serious: Ulbricht is charged not with participating in a run-of-the-mill drug distribution conspiracy, but with designing and operating an online criminal enterprise of enormous scope, worldwide reach, and capacity to generate tens of millions of dollars in commissions,” reported Forrest. “Evidence that defendant sought to protect this sprawling enterprise by soliciting murders-for-hire is, in this overall context, not unduly prejudicial.”

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