Silk Road Trial: FBI Traced $13.4M in Bitcoin to Ross Ulbricht’s Laptop

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by Eugenia Romanenko · 3 min read
Silk Road Trial: FBI Traced $13.4M in Bitcoin to Ross Ulbricht’s Laptop
Photo: Nate_892/Flickr

A former FBI agent testified that he directly traced millions in bitcoin to the laptop of Ross Ulbricht, the man behind the online black marketplace Silk Road.

On January 29, 2015, in Manhattan federal court, federal prosecutors testified the fact that Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the online black marketplace Silk Road, had between $16 million and $18 million worth of bitcoins on his laptop when he was arrested in October 2013.

During the trial, Ilhwan Yum, a former FBI special agent, said that he traced 3,760 bitcoin transactions from servers seized in the Silk Road investigation to Ross Ulbricht’s Samsung 700z laptop. Wired reports that according to Yum’s calculations based on exchange rates at the time of the aforesaid transactions, the transferred coins were worth a total of $13.4 million.

Yum also took part in the seizure of the servers in Philadelphia and Iceland which were owned by the Silk Road. It occurred a day after the arrest of Ross Ulbricht.

During Ilhwan Yum’s cross-examination, defense attorney Joshua Dratel asked about possibilities of Ulbricht’s using the Silk Road server just as a wallet for his bitcoins. Yum stated that it was improbable.

Moreover, a journal describing the website’s creation was found on Ross’ PC and was presented in court by prosecutors. The Silk Road’s defense team acknowledged the fact of the website’s creation in 2011. But advocates insist on the fact that Ulbricht gave up administrating it a few months after it was launched.

Nevertheless, it’s not quite clear whether or not the government can prove the fact that Ulbricht is “Dread Pirate Roberts”. This name was used by Silk Road’s administrator during the period that, according to the government’s statements, Ulbricht was helping in the trafficking of illegal drugs. Ulbricht has denied using this particular name online.

Back in 2013, a separate individual claiming to be Dread Pirate Roberts stated that he/she “didn’t start the Silk Road, my predecessor did.”

Alex Winter, director of an upcoming documentary ‘Deep Web’, says that Ross Ulbricht’s trial could have some serious consequences for journalists and dissidents using the internet to do their work:

 “This case has a magnitudinous effect on all of these different areas of American life – state level, federal level. It has a magnitudinous effect on a global level, in terms of the desperate need for the transparency and freedom of the internet.”

John Bush, a journalist at The Liberty Beat, told RT that the trial’s result is quite significant:

“If people aren’t paying attention, I strongly suggest that they start paying attention now… because the outcome of this trial is going to affect everyone that uses the internet.”

It’s necessary to add that civil liberties advocates are concerned about the fact that the government won’t unveil the ways of obtaining evidence against Ulbricht.

The court ruled that regardless of whether or not the FBI hacked the overseas server, Ulbricht did not demonstrate that he was the owner of the server. Thus, “the court could not entertain the idea that his constitutional rights were violated”, reports RT.

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Eugenia Romanenko

Eugenia graduated from Minsk State Linguistic University with a degree in Intercultural Communication, Translation/Interpretation (Italian, English). Currently she works as a business analyst, freelance interpreter and tutor. She’s fond of numismatics, photos, good books and sports, adores travelling and cooking.

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