Silk Road Founder Gets Life

Friday, May 29, 2015 @ 04:05 PM gHale

Ross Ulbricht, the convicted mastermind behind the world’s largest online narcotics emporium called Silk Road is now facing life in prison without parole after a federal judge sentenced him today.

The judge also ordered Ulbricht, 31, to forfeit $184 million. The government estimated roughly $1.2 billion in illegal drug transactions took place on Silk Road.

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The judge said it was a “demand expanding operation” and what Ulbricht did was thoughtful, as opposed to just being an economic experiment. She added he often referred to it as his life’s work and a worldwide criminal enterprise.

“Silk Road was about creating demand and fulfilling demand,” the judge said. Noting Ulbricht was well educated, she said, “you don’t fit the criminal profile, but you are a criminal.” She continued, “I don’t know that you feel a lot of remorse. I don’t think you know that you hurt a lot of people.”

Ulbricht’s defense team said it would seek an appeal. Ulbricht’s lawyer called life sentence “unreasonable, unjust, unfair.”

Ulbricht faced anywhere from 20 years to life in prison for his role in running Silk Road under the pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts,” a reference to the cult classic “Princess Bride.”

Ulbricht ended up convicted in February of all seven counts, including trafficking drugs on the Internet, narcotics-trafficking conspiracy, running a continuing criminal enterprise, computer-hacking conspiracy, and money-laundering conspiracy, according to Bloomberg.

“I’m not the man I was when I created Silk Road,” Ulbricht told the court before the sentencing. “I wish I could go back and convince myself to take a different path.”

The challenge for the prosecution throughout the trial was to prove Ulbricht was in fact Dread Pirates Roberts — the person who was running the black market e-commerce site Silk Road when the FBI shut it down in 2013.

While Ulbricht’s defense attorney, Joshua Dratel, never denied that Ulbricht had founded Silk Road, he argued Ulbricht left the site at its peak for quite some time and only rejoined right before his arrest.

Dratel repeatedly claimed that somebody else took over the site after Ulbricht started and expanded it into the massive narcotics emporium it became. However, the defense struggled throughout the trial to come up with alternative “DPRs” — especially as the journal entries and chat logs found on Ulbricht’s laptop (in which he refers to Silk Road as a “criminal enterprise) continue to incriminate him.

Throughout the trial, the prosecution, led by Assistant US Attorneys Serrin Turner and Timothy Howard, attempted to characterize Ulbricht as a ruthless drug kingpin who was “motivated by greed and vanity,” and whose website resulted in countless addictions and multiple drug-related deaths because of the ease with which it allowed people to purchase drugs.

The case has been hailed as the most significant — and maybe even the first — of its kind, as it is the first time the government has ever expanded the statute of money laundering to include digital currency (bitcoins).

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