Silk Road

On the 26 May 2015 Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to a life in prison without parole. His crime of seven felonies, including trafficking drugs on the internet, narcotics-trafficking conspiracy, running a continuing criminal enterprise, computer hacking, and money laundering.

The Guardian illustrates how Silk Road was something new, something big and something innovative.

“But Silk Road, founded in 2011, was something else. Using the Tor encryption service and with prices in Bitcoin, it promised a new level of safety – both from law enforcement and from scam artists. Vendors were rated by users, as they are on sites like Ebay; vendors that failed to deliver got bad reviews, so users knew to steer clear.”
Silk Road is another example of how Bitcoins can be used for illegal purposes. Silk Road was an online market place which allowed Bitcoins to be used for the purchase and selling of drugs and other illegal goods (Lee 2013). The founder of Silk Road is Ross Ulbricht, 29, and was a former  physics and engineering student from Austin, Texas. However on the 1 October 2013 the FBI found him sitting in the library in San Francisco carrying out illegal trades on the internet. The FBI raid was the culmination of a yearlong investigation into the website which sold drugs and other illegal items. Ulbricht, who was also known on Silk Road as Dread Pirate Walking, had operated the illegal business from his home or local café for over a year. He carried out most of the trades himself and amassed a fortune which was held in Bitcoins (The Guardian 2013). Although some of his wealth is still unaccounted for it is estimated that he is worth $34.5m and he was making $20,000 a day on commissions.  The FBI held onto the Bitcoins stemming from the business until the end trial and then they hope to liquidate the Bitcoins. However Ulbrichts personal fortune is still unavailable to authorities (Hill 2013b).Ulbricht was also charged with the ordering up to six  ‘hits’ on people who had stood in the way of his enterprise (Flitter 2013). In November 2013 he was denied bail during his case.

His case can be found at:U.S. v. Ulbricht, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-mj-2328.

Many are now asking whether the sentence life without parole is too harsh a sentence or is it perhaps a benchmark laid down so others who may follow in Ulbrichts footsteps will have to take heed of? Time will tell but what is certain is that there will be other Silk Roads and Ulbrichts who will use technology and legal loopholes to expand their criminal empire.


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