Alleged Silk Road Mastermind Ross Ulbricht Pleads Not Guilty
“Silk Road is going to become a phenomenon and at least one person will tell me about it, unknowing that I was its creator.” — Journal entry from the confiscated laptop of Ross Ulbricht
On Friday, Ross Ulbricht, alleged “kingpin” behind massive online black market Silk Road, plead “not guilty” to charges of conspiring to traffic in narcotics, hack computers, and launder money.
Ulbricht has been charged under a provision typically reserved for mafia dons and cartel bosses, the “Continuing Criminal Enterprise Statute” also known as “The Kingpin Statute.” The Kingpin Statute carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years imprisonment (a maximum sentence of life imprisonment), a fine of no more than $2 million, and forfeiture of profits and any interest in the enterprise.
Additionally, Assistant U.S. Attorney Serrin Turner alleged that Ulbricht spent $730,000 hiring hit men to to kill six of his enemies. However, Ulbricht will not be charged with murder as their is no evidence of any killings being carried out.
According to a recent Forbes article citing Addiction journal, during Silk Road’s two-and-a-half-years in operation (beginning “in or about January 2011″), nearly 20 percent of drug consumers in the U.S. used narcotics bought on Silk Road. the site facilitated more than a million transactions and generated the equivalent of more than $1.2 billion in revenues and approximately $420 million in commissions.
The official indictment issued Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York states that Silk Road included 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.”
Image: Ross Ulbricht used a series of fake IDs to run his Silk Road enterprise
“The idea was to create a website where people could buy anything anonymously, with no trail whatsoever that could lead back to them,” wrote Ulbricht in a journal on his confiscated laptop. Ulbricht’s plea of “not guilty” to masterminding Silk Road is surprising considering the wealth of evidence that exists against him. Prosecutors claim to have between eight and ten terabytes of evidence that can potentially be used as evidence in Ulbricht’s trial.
A man of Libertarian ideals, Ulbricht’s Linked In account contained the following passionate statement of intent:
Now, my goals have shifted. I want to use economic theory as a means to abolish the use of coercion and aggression amongst mankind. Just as slavery has been abolished most everywhere, I believe violence, coercion and all forms of force by one person over another can come to an end. The most widespread and systemic use of force is amongst institutions and governments, so this is my current point of effort. The best way to change a government is to change the minds of the governed, however. To that end, I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force.
Video: the story of the Dread Pirate Roberts
Ulbricht’s “king pin” moniker of the “Dread Pirate Roberts” is a reference to an idea from the popular film The Princess Bride. In the film, the heroine Buttercup discovers that the fearsome Dread Pirate Roberts who has kidnapped her (from her original kidnappers) is actually her long lost love Wesley.
How could this be? Wesley explains that the original Dread Pirate Roberts retired rich years before and that there have been many Dread Pirate Roberts since. With the name of “Dread Pirate Roberts,” the truth isn’t essential, the idea is what changes reality. Perception is reality. Wesley tells his love Buttercup, “The name is the important thing for establishing the necessary fear. You see, no one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Wesley.”
Ulbricht is quoted as saying, “Every action you take outside the scope of government control strengthens the market and weakens the state.” Ulbricht’s trial is slated to begin in early November and run for four to six weeks.