Silk Road Founder Faces Life in Prison

By McCarton Ackerman 01/13/15

Ross William Ulbricht has been charged with drug trafficking, conspiracy, and attempted murder.

Ross William Ulbricht
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The man accused of running the online drug marketplace could spend the rest of his life behind bars if convicted on all charges in his current trial.

Ross William Ulbricht, formerly known on the site as Dread Pirate Roberts, has pleaded not guilty to all seven charges against him including trafficking drugs on the Internet, money-laundering conspiracy, and computer-hacking conspiracy.

The 30-year-old also allegedly tried to arrange for the murders of six other people, including a former employee he believed stole $350,000 in bit coins, the online currency used on the Silk Road website. He is being charged separately in the murder plot charges, but prosecutors have said there is no proof that any murders were carried out.

Ulbricht allegedly ran Silk Road from 2011 to 2013. Federal agents arrested him on Oct. 1, 2013, and shut down Silk Road the following day. They also seized $3.6 million in bitcoins. The site reportedly generated a staggering $1 billion in sales in less than three years.

The most prolific drug dealer on the Silk Road website, Cornelis Jan Slomp, also faces 15 years behind bars. Prosecutors originally recommended he serve a 40-year sentence, but then lowered that number significantly due to his cooperation with authorities.

Blake Benthall, a former Silk Road employee, launched Silk Road 2.0 just weeks after Ulbricht's arrest. The new site generated $8 million in monthly revenues through it's 150,000 active users, but was shut down last November after he was arrested by federal authorities. Benthall now faces 10 years in prison on charges including narcotics trafficking, conspiring to commit computer hacking, and money-laundering conspiracy.

Silk Road 3.0 was launched just a week after Benthall’s arrest, but has received largely negative reviews. It’s actually a strategic name change from a former “cannabis-only” marketplace that was named Diabolus Market.

Users haven’t been pleased with the overall functionality of the new site, with one writing in a message board that “the Silkroad [sic] 2.0 was designed with a lot more sophistication…this looks like it’s just been thrown together by a bunch of kids.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.