The surreal story of the FBI’s takedown of the 29-year-old baron of Silk Road, an online drugs and weapons bazaar, became even stranger last night as new criminal charges emerged that accuse “Dread Pirate Roberts” of plotting to kill an employee.
As the Washington Post reported, the new charges describe how Dread Pirate Roberts, whose real name is Ross Ulbricht, paid an undercover agent $80,000 to torture and kill an employee he thought was a snitch.
The plot led the US Attorneys office for Maryland to charge Ulbricht with Attempted Witness Murder, a federal charge that carries a sentence of up to 30 years (it could have been death if the murder had taken place). This charge comes in addition to a host of others, including computer fraud and money laundering, that carry sentences of 10 to 20 years.
The proposed murder, as the indictment explains, came about after Ulbricht asked the agent — who had been posing as a big time drug dealer on Silk Road — to take revenge on an employee he believed had stolen Bitcoins (the virtual currency used on Silk Road) and behaved disloyally.
“I’d like him beat up, then forced to send the bitcoins he stole back,” wrote Ulbricht, later adding, “can you change the order to execute rather than torture?”
The agents responded by sending Ulbricht mock photos of the employee beaten and, later, appearing to be dead. Ulbricht responded by writing that he was “a little disturbed, but I’m ok … I’m new to this kind of thing is all .. I don’t think I’ve done the wrong thing.”
Here’s the indictment via the Baltimore Sun: