Online black market Silk Road has been busted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The site’s alleged owner, 29-year old Ross William Ulbricht—known as “Dread Pirate Roberts”—was arrested at a San Francisco public library on Tuesday.
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According to an FBI complaint, Ross Ulbricht was the driving force behind Silk Road which is known for selling drugs and other goods of questionable origin. The site is also best known for making use of the popular Bitcoin electronic currency.
In the 39-page complaint, FBI cites DPR’s operation as “the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet today.” The site’s main source of income came from drug dealers and managed to rake in around $9.5 million so far ($1.2 billion according to the FBI.)
The charges against Dread Pirate Roberts include one each of narcotics trafficking, computer hacking, and money laundering. The complaint lists the drugs and amounts in the narcotics charge and also mentions that Ulbricht used Silk Road to set up an assassination.
Ross William Ulbricht (AKA Dread Pirate Roberts)
In the last charge, Ulbricht is alleged to have paid 1,670 Bitcoins (roughly $150,000) on the head of another Silk Road member who intended to extort him. DPR was informed that the hit had been completed, but federal law enforcement couldn’t confirm it. The charge on page two reads as follows:
“On or about March 29, 2013, ROSS WILLIAM ULBRICHT, AKA “Dread Pirate Roberts,” AKA “DPR,” AKA “Silk Road,” the defendant, in connection with operating the Silk Road website, solicited a Silk Road user to execute a murder-for-hire of another Silk Road user, who was threatening to release the identities of thousands of users of the site.”
The trigger was pulled on Ulbricht’s arrest and the closing of Silk Road was a package going from Canada to San Francisco that had nine fake IDs. The IDs were meant to be used as a means of renting additional servers to power his site as it became more active.
Ulbricht was the focus of the Forbes’ August cover story “The Man Behind Booming Black Market Drug Website Silk Road.” In the article, Dread Pirate Roberts told Andy Greenberg that he couldn’t run his business beyond The Onion Router (TOR), which allows for anonymous browsing via proxies.
“The highest levels of government are hunting me, I can’t take any chances,” he said.
In another interview with Andy Greenberg, Ulbricht said that he didn’t start Silk Road and had simply taken it over after paying for ownership of the site. In the FBI complaint, it is mentioned that Ulbricht had several associates in administrative roles to help run Silk Road.
While there has been no news if the FBI will be going after these administrators, it seems only logical that they would try to reign in everyone associated with the running of the site—especially when they can’t be certain who has what degree of knowledge in the upstart and operation of Silk Road.
It’s no stretch that illicit trade can and will be carried out in different platforms such as message boards, full sites, email, or particularly worded ads on craigslist or any smaller, lesser known services site, but cutting the chances of another Silk Road is likely a priority of the FBI.
The Silk Road’s storefront wasn’t limited to drugs. The site also sold hacks on social media, money, firearms, fake ID, and more. The full complaint can be read below.