Rise And Fall Of Silk Road's Ross Ulbricht Explored In New Book

By David Konow 05/01/17

The book chronicles the massive, multi-agency manhunt that resulted in the capture of Silk Road founder, Ross Ulbricht.

Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht
Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht Photo via YouTube

In 2015, the now-defunct website Silk Road was dubbed by Newsweek to be the “the Dark Web’s Amazon.” The Silk Road provided access to weapons sales, hitmen, and it also offered access to a plethora of illicit drugs. The site reportedly did $1.2 billion in sales before getting shut down in 2013.

Silk Road was founded by Ross Ulbricht, who in 2011 was making $300 a week as a lab researcher before he became an internet crime lord in charge of an empire worth $3.6 million. Ulbricht was eventually caught and given a life sentence in 2015. Now his rise and fall has been chronicled in a new book which is being released on May 2, American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt For The Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road, written by Nick Bilton. The book chronicles Ulbricht's journey from lab researcher to fugitive and the massive, multi-agency manhunt that resulted in his capture.

Ulbricht is currently being housed in the Metropolitan Correctional Center or, as some call it, the Guantanamo of New York. The notorious New York City prison also houses the infamous drug kingpin El Chapo. 

“I actually lived a few blocks away from the library where Ross Ulbricht was arrested in this sleepy part of San Francisco called Glen Park," American Kingpin aurhor Nick Bilton told the Huffington Post. "I was fascinated by the modern-day reality that someone could be running the biggest drug and guns empire on the Internet from a tiny library (and nearby coffee shops).”

For Bilton, the appeal of the story was irresistible. “I felt it was such a perfect allegory for how technology can be used for both good, and for evil, and how people in Silicon Valley build these sites with one goal in mind, but are incapable of seeing how it will affect so many people,” Bilton says.

In researching Ulbricht’s life and crimes, Bilton understood his rationale on some level, yet he’s also horrified by what Silk Road unleashed onto the world.

“After reading Ross’s writings about legalizing drugs, I could completely understand his arguments, and you can see why he believed legalizing drugs would make society safer,” Bilton continued. “But when you see what actually happened with the Silk Road, you can comprehend why the judge chose to hand down such a harsh sentence … There were teenagers and college students who died from bad drugs or overdoses … And when you see the results of the opioid epidemic in America, that is another layer of what can happen with sites like Silk Road."

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.