Silk Road creator found guilty on all charges
The trial of Ross Ulbricht, the alleged mastermind behind the Silk Road online marketplace, has concluded just three weeks after it started, with the 30-year-old found guilty on all charges.
The jury at the trial concluded that Ulbricht was indeed the Silk Road’s operator, Dread Pirate Roberts, after just three-and-a-half hours of deliberation. As such, he has been convicted of money-laundering, computer-hacking, drug-trafficking and soliciting the murder of six people.
The Silk Road operated like an ebay for illegal goods and services and became particularly popular as a place to buy and sell drugs, firearms, cybercrime-as-a-service and assassinations.
The users and operators of the site were able to evade detection for nearly three years thanks to the fact it operated on the Dark Web and was only accessible through the anonymising Tor browser. Additional security was afforded by the fact transactions were all carried out using the supposedly untraceable Bitcoin digital currency.
According to the prosecution, Ulbricht made more than $80 million in commissions through the site.
When he was detained by the FBI in 2013, Ulbricht was allegedly logged into the Silk Road on his laptop, which also contained chat logs and a diary containing information on the site.
“[Ulbricht was] literally caught with his fingers at the keyboard, running the Silk Road,” the prosecutors told the court.
Ulbricht, however, has always maintained his innocence. According to Forbes, his lawyers conceded the young libertarian did set up the site as “an economic experiment”, but claimed he was the “perfect fall guy” for the true operators of the website, who took control of the site before any of the crimes Ulbricht was charged with were committed. They further claimed that the evidence presented by the prosecution was the result of Ulbricht’s laptop being hacked.
Indeed, a person interviewed by Forbes in August 2013 who claimed to be DPR said they had taken over running the site from another, unnamed person, although this could equally mean Ulbricht took over from the original founder.
However, the prosecution said in closing arguments this was a “wild conspiracy theory” and a “desperate attempt to create a smokescreen.”
Ulbricht’s sentencing will take place on 15 May this year, where he faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum full life tariff.