Ross Ulbricht found guilty of masterminding Silk Road

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Credit: Free Ross

His attorneys admitted early on in the trial that Ross Ulbricht had created the Silk Road, the online drug bazaar that was busted by the FBI in October 2013 when Ulbricht was arrested. However, the defense strategy of claiming Ulbricht founded the site before passing it on to other operators (even accusing defamed MtGox CEO Mark Karpeles) didn’t work.

On Wednesday, a jury found Ulbricht guilty of charges related to the operation of the online drug website, including computer hacking, money laundering, drug trafficking, criminal enterprise and aiding and abetting the distribution of drugs over the internet. While the prosecution did bring up the murder-for-hire plots, where Ulbricht had solicited help from the Hells Angels to kill a Silk Road user FriendlyChemist, Ulbricht did not face any murder solicitation charges in the trial, according to Bloomberg, and there has been no evidence that the murders ever took place.

Throughout the trial, the prosecutors in the federal courthouse in Manhattan sandbagged the defense with mountains of evidence linking Ulbricht to Dread Pirate Roberts, the moniker used by the founder of the Silk Road. Ulbricht was arrested in October 2013 at a San Francisco library, with his laptop open and logged into the network. The prosecutors also brandished Ulbricht’s personal journal, where he wrote about starting the Silk Road and various life events, and compared them to chats from Dread Pirate Roberts (unsurprisingly, there was quite a bit of overlap). Even bitcoin transactions, a network that has long touted its anonymity, were able to be traced from the Silk Road to Ulbricht’s accounts.

The defense, on the other hand, had their only two witnesses thrown out by the judge. Ulbricht’s initial trial confession of founding the site seemed to only surprise his family, who had remained steadfast in their campaign for his innocence and funded much of his trial from donations.

It was a fast turnaround for the case, with the trial lasting less than a month and the jury only heading to deliberation on Wednesday morning before returning a guilty verdict later in the day. The FBI arrested Blake Benthall for being the alleged operator of Silk Road 2, the successor online market, in San Francisco on November 2014.

This story was updated several times as more information became available.

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