Man indicted in vast online black market
Federal prosecutors in New York unsealed on Tuesday a broad felony indictment of a man whom they say masterminded the biggest, most sophisticated black-market bazaar on the Internet.
Ross William Ulbricht, 29, was charged by a grand jury with drug trafficking, computer hacking, money laundering and engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise — charges that could result in a life sentence if he is convicted.
The indictment was unsealed in federal court in Manhattan and announced by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
Joshua Dratel, a lawyer for Ulbricht, said his client plans to plead not guilty at an arraignment scheduled for Friday. Ulbricht, who attended Penn State, was taken into custody last year at a San Francisco public library.
Ulbricht is accused of operating and owning Silk Road — a hidden website that prosecutors say was designed to enable users to buy and sell drugs and other illegal goods and services anonymously. The website was shut down in October; it began operating in January 2011.
Prosecutors allege that Silk Road was used by several thousand drug dealers and other vendors to distribute large amounts of drugs and other illegal items and services to more than 100,000 buyers. Prosecutors said the site was used to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from illegal transactions.
Prosecutors said Silk Road used a special “Tor” network of computers distributed around the world and designed to conceal the IP addresses of the computers and identities of their operators. The transactions were made using a Bitcoin-based payment system that helped conceal identities, prosecutors said.
Bitcoin, which began in 2009, is a decentralized digital currency traded from person to person rather than through banks.
The Silk Road site was so vast that it contained nearly 13,000 listings for drugs in late September, shortly before it was shut down, according to the indictment.
Law enforcement agents made more than 100 undercover purchases of controlled substances from Silk Road vendors, including heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and LSD, prosecutors alleged.
Vendors were scattered over 10 countries — the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Austria and France.
Among the services available on Silk Road were computer hacking and document forgery, including driver's licenses, passports and other forms of identification.
Using the online name “Dread Pirate Roberts” or “DPR,” Ulbricht oversaw the site, managed a small paid staff and reaped commissions worth tens of millions of dollars from illicit sales on the site, prosecutors charged.
Prosecutors allege that Ulbricht “even solicited six murders-for-hire in connection with operating the site,” though there is no evidence the killings were carried out.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- John Nash, wife, ‘A Beautiful Mind’ inspiration, die in N.J. taxi crash
- Parks threatened by dispute over renewal
- Michigan woman marks 116th birthday
- Texas, Oklahoma residents urged to flee flooding
- Clinton Foundation reports as much as $26.4M in previously undisclosed payments
- Why FedEx truck slammed into bus in Calif. in fatal crash still unknown year later
- Senate foils phone spies in close vote
- Veterans frustrated by GOP presidential debate on Iraq War
- Ex-Va. lawmaker plans to wed teen in sex scandal
- Harvey Girls recognized for role in history of West
- Police kill suspect in fatal shootings of Missouri woman, son