DoJ announced today the indictment in Manhattan federal court of ROSS WILLIAM ULBRICHT, a/k/a ‘Dread Pirate Roberts,’ a/k/a ‘DPR,’ a/k/a ‘Silk Road,’ in connection with his operation and ownership of Silk Road, a hidden website designed to enable its users to buy and sell illegal drugs and other unlawful goods and services anonymously and beyond the reach of law enforcement. ULBRICHT was arrested in San Francisco, California, on October 1, 2013, pursuant to a criminal Complaint filed in Manhattan federal court.
According to the allegations in todays Indictment and other documents previously filed in Manhattan federal court: ULBRICHT created Silk Road in approximately January 2011, and owned and operated the underground website until it was shut down by law enforcement authorities in October 2013. Silk Road emerged as the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet, serving as a sprawling black-market bazaar where unlawful goods and services, including illegal drugs of virtually all varieties, were bought and sold regularly by the sites users. While in operation, Silk Road was used by several thousand drug dealers and other unlawful vendors to distribute hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs and other unlawful goods and services to well over a hundred thousand buyers, and to launder hundreds of millions of dollars deriving from these unlawful transactions.
ULBRICHT deliberately operated Silk Road as an online criminal marketplace intended to enable its users to buy and sell drugs and other illegal goods and services anonymously and outside the reach of law enforcement. ULBRICHT sought to anonymize transactions on Silk Road in two principal ways. First, ULBRICHT operated Silk Road on what is known as ‘The Onion Router,’ or Tor network, a special network of computers on the Internet, distributed around the world, designed to conceal the true IP addresses of the computers on the network and thereby the identities of the networks users. Second, ULBRICHT designed Silk Road to include a Bitcoin-based payment system that served to facilitate the illegal commerce conducted on the site, including by concealing the identities and locations of the users transmitting and receiving funds through the site.
The vast majority of items for sale on Silk Road were illegal drugs, which were openly advertised as such on the site…In addition to illegal narcotics, other illicit goods and services were openly bought and sold on Silk Road as well. For example, as of September 23, 2013, there were: 159 listings under the category ‘Services,’ most of which offered computer-hacking services, such as a listing by a vendor offering to hack into social networking accounts of the customers choosing; 801 listings under the category ‘Digital goods,’ including malicious software, hacked accounts at various online services, and pirated media content; and 169 listings under the category ‘Forgeries,’ including offers to produce fake drivers licenses, passports, Social Security cards, utility bills, credit card statements, car insurance records, and other forms of false identification documents. (Source: U.S. Department of Justice)