Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ross William Ulbricht and the Silk Road

Ross William Ulbricht

At 3:15 p.m. on October 1, 2013, sudden loud crashing noises led San Francisco Glen Park Library employees to rush to the science fiction section, fearing a patron had just collapsed due to illness or injury. Instead of a sick or wounded individual, startled library employees saw federal agents arresting a library patron, the laptop of the handcuffed suspect still open.

The suspect was slender, brown-haired, boyishly handsome Ross William Ulbricht, 29. Garbed in a t-shirt and jeans, he hardly appeared the head of a major black market center for illegal drugs – but he was arrested because authorities believe Ross is “Dread Pirate Roberts,” or “DPR,” the administrator of the Silk Road, an online marketplace that has been dubbed the “ of illegal drugs.” Silk Road was closed shortly after Ross’ arrest.

Ross was extradited from California to New York where charges were originally filed. Authorities charged Ross with drug trafficking, computer hacking, money laundering, and engaging in a criminal enterprise. Lucas Jackson reports for Reuters, “Prosecutors allege that Silk Road was used by several thousand drug dealers and illicit vendors to distribute large amounts of drugs and other illegal goods to more than 100,000 buyers. The prosecution alleges Ulbricht laundered hundreds of million of dollars from the site’s illegal transactions.” Ryan Mac writes in Forbes that prosecutors allege Ross “generated more than $80 million in commissions from running the site.”

David Segal writes in The New York Times, “An indictment in a parallel but separate investigation, run out of Baltimore, including this startling detail: some of the Dread Pirate Roberts’s booty was spent to commission killings – six killings in total, to be done by hit men whose targets were deemed by Dread Pirate Roberts to threaten Silk Road.” However, authorities believe none of the commissions led to actual killings.

Ross faces a possible sentence of life imprisonment. He has been denied bail. Ross has pled not guilty to all charges. Defense attorney Joshua Dratel contended, “The evidence can’t establish that he is who they say he is or that he’s done what they say he’s done.”

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