Silk Road Trial: Ross Ulbricht Found Guilty of Running Drug-Dealing Website

After a trial which lasted 3 weeks, a Manhattan federal jury has found Ross Ulbricht, 30, mastermind of the web-site Silk Road, guilty on all criminal counts.

Ross Ulbricht, the creator of the notorious Silk Road web marketplace, has been found guilty on all seven counts by a Manhattan jury. The counts range  from money laundering to drug trafficking, engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise and computer hacking. The jury  took about 4 hours to come to the conclusion that Ross Ulbricht  was the man behind the name Dread Pirate Roberts.

The infamous web-site was launched in 2011. Since then Silk Road has been  an unregulated online marketplace where customers could purchase anything  starting from illegal drugs to hacking instructions. Moreover, the site used software which permitted clients to browse anonymously.  Payments were made using bitcoin, a digital currency that’s difficult to trace.

According to the prosecutors, Ross Ulbricht, Silk Road’s creator,  was using the name Dread Pirate Roberts, a reference to a character in the film The Princess Bride. Testifying before the court, former FBI agent Ilhwan Yum traced more than $13 million in direct transactions from the Silk Road to Ulbricht’s wallet, highlighting the fact that Ulbricht had been profiting from the site and  a number of illegal drug transactions.

Ulbricht’s defense admitted that Ulbricht had created the Silk Road saying that it had been started as an economic experiment and then handed  off to someone else. In the first days of the trial,  Homeland Security agent Jared Der-Yeghiayan declared that he had suspected that Mark Karpeles, Mt. Gox founder, was the man behind the Silk Road. But Der-Yeghiayan’s testimony ended up being refused by the court as immaterial speculation. The defense called two other witnesses who were barred from testifying for procedural reasons. Ross Ulbricht refused to testify.

Lyn Ulbricht, Ross’ mother, said  their lawyer was “shackled” by the judge’s decision to not hear evidence from three of the defence’s witnesses. In an interview before the verdict, she said:

“This drug kingpin thing …The guy was living in a very simple apartment, living a very simple life. So many things don’t add up.”

During the trial, the prosecutors presented the testimony of a friend who admitted the fact that he had helped Ulbricht launch the infamous site. Moreover, there were presented either journal entries describing operations or chat logs.

The prosecution claimed Ulbricht administrated the Silk Road website starting from its creation in early 2011 to its closure in October, 2013. Prosecutors described Ulbricht “as a power-hungry kingpin who used threats of violence and murder to protect his multimillion-dollar drug empire.”

Serrin Turner, assistent US attorney, said to the court that Silk Road “was his baby, and he stayed with it enthusiastically for nearly three years.”

“Ulbricht’s arrest and conviction – and our seizure of millions of dollars of Silk Road bitcoins – should send a clear message to anyone else attempting to operate an online criminal enterprise,” read a statement from U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. “The supposed anonymity of the dark web is not a protective shield from arrest and prosecution.”

Ubricht’s sentencing is to occur on May 15, 2015.

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