Ross William Ulbricht (born March 27, 1984) is a former darknet market operator, best known for being convicted of creating and running the Silk Road website until his arrest. He was known under the pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts”.
Ulbricht was convicted of money laundering, computer hacking, conspiracy to traffic fraudulent identity documents, and conspiracy to traffic narcotics in February 2015. He is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The conviction and sentence went to appellate court, but the appeal was denied on May 31, 2017.
“The Dread Pirate Roberts” attributed his inspiration for creating the Silk Road marketplace as “Alongside Night and the works of Samuel Edward Konkin III.” As early as 2009 Ulbricht had been contemplating the idea of building an online black market that would use Tor and bitcoin to evade law enforcement. Tor is a protocol which encrypts data and routes internet traffic through intermediary servers which anonymize IP addresses before reaching a final destination. By hosting his market as a Tor site, Ulbricht could conceal its IP address. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency; while all bitcoin transactions are recorded in a log, the blockchain, if users can avoid linking their identities to their online “wallets” they can conduct transactions with considerable anonymity.
Ulbricht began work on developing his online marketplace in 2010 as a side project to Good Wagon Books. He also sporadically kept a diary during the operating history of Silk Road; in his first entry he outlined his situation prior to launch, and predicted he would make 2011 “a year of prosperity” through his ventures. Ulbricht may also have included a reference to Silk Road on his LinkedIn page, where he discussed his wish to “use economic theory as a means to abolish the use of coercion and aggression amongst mankind” and claimed “I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force.” To author Nathaniel Popper, the creation of Silk Road was an act of “sheer desperation” after Ulbricht exhausted most of the nest egg he had out of college on his failed businesses. Ulbricht moved to San Francisco prior to his arrest.
Ulbricht was first connected to “Dread Pirate Roberts” by Gary Alford, an IRS investigator working with the DEA on the Silk Road case, in mid-2013. In October 2013, Ulbricht was arrested and accused by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of being the “mastermind” behind the site. Ulbricht was taken into custody at the Glen Park branch of the San Francisco Public Library.
To prevent Ulbricht from encrypting or deleting data on the laptop he was using to run the site as he was arrested, two agents pretended to be quarreling lovers. When they had sufficiently distracted him, one of the agents took his computer away and inserted a USB flash drive that cloned all the data on the hard drive. Agent Chris Tarbell presented Ulbricht the warrant for his arrest.
Ulbricht was charged with money laundering, computer hacking, conspiracy to traffic narcotics, and procuring murder. The charge of procuring murder was removed from the indictment although the evidence was factored into Ulbricht’s sentence. Ulbricht was convicted of all the remaining charges after a jury trial that concluded in February 2015. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole on 29 May 2015. His lawyers submitted an appeal on 12 January 2016, centered on claims that the prosecution illegally withheld evidence of DEA agents’ malfeasance in the investigation of Silk Road, for which they were convicted. The oral hearing for the appeal was 6 October 2016.. On May 31, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied Ulbricht’s appeal and affirmed the judgment of conviction and life sentence in an opinion written by Gerard E. Lynch, United States Circuit Judge.
The prosecutor believed that none of the six contracted murders-for-hire occurred. One charge of procuring murder is to be dealt with in a separate pending trial in Maryland; the other five were never filed.
He is currently serving his life sentence at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, New York.
FREEROSS.ORG explains his case.
The Ross Ulbricht Legal Defense effort is a group of family, friends and supporters who are working to free Ross Ulbricht from a barbaric, double life sentence for all non-violent charges. Our mission is to have Ross be a free man again and give him the chance to make a contribution to his community and society.
Our aim is not only to help Ross, however. By living through this ordeal, and getting to know other families and inmates in prison, we have learned that Ross is not unique in how he was investigated, tried or sentenced. We have seen firsthand how the US constitutional protections are being eroded. We hope that by shining a light on the plight of multiple thousands of people caught in the US criminal justice system, and sounding a warning about diminishing freedoms, we can help move the US back toward being a more just, humane and free nation again.
In addition to funding Ross’s appeal and gaining his freedom, we are focused on the following issues:
- The right to a fair trial, a bulwark of our liberty.
- Draconian sentencing practices, so common in the US justice system.
- Mass incarceration in the US.
- The expensive, cruel and failed Drug War.
- The right to privacy and threats to the 4th Amendment and other US constitutional protections.
- Prosecutorial misconduct
- Dangerous precedents set with the Silk Road case.
Our supporters come from all over the world and all walks of life, ages and political persuasions. They are people who see past the sensationalism that has clouded the case to the importance of larger issues that it will impact. Please join us and them!
I believe Ross Ulbricht has effectively been punished for creating a successful service that people want to use. Should the creation of a website/service be punished with a prison sentence? Should Ross Ulbricht be held responsible for what people add to his website? Facebook has been used by some for much more sinister and evil purposes but Mark Zuckerberg is not in prison and obviously he shouldn’t be (not for that reason at least.)
Ross Ulbricht is facing a lifetime in prison for an idea that he was intelligent enough to execute its a harsh punishment for somebody that has committed no act of violence. The story is currently ignored by the mainstream media but we the people should demand that Ross Ulbricht is freed.
Follow link to view Silk Road http://silkroad7rn2puhj.onion/ (Tor Browser or something like it required.)