Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht is facing life in prison after a federal jury found him guilty on all seven charges relating to the Dark Net marketplace that specialized in the illegal sale of everything from heroin to hitmen’s services.
Using the supposedly untraceable cryptocurrency Bitcoin for its financial transactions, Silk Road became the de facto Amazon marketplace for every illicit thing anyone could ever want.
Prosecuting attorneys successfully argued the 30-year-old operated the underground exchange using the pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts” to allow online users to sell a wide range of contraband, hacking tutorials, and worse.
After three weeks of testimony, the jury took just three-and-a-half hours to reach its verdict, with sentencing scheduled for May 15.
Online Gambling Connection
US Attorney Preet Bharara, the lead prosecutor in the suit against Ulbricht, is a strong anti-online gambling proponent who was recently considered by President Obama to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder.
Bharara is infamous among Internet poker fans for being responsible for “Black Friday,” the Department of Justice’s crackdown and removal of PokerStars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker from the United States online gaming market. At the time, he referred to online gambling as a “concocted and elaborate criminal fraud scheme,” with the defendants engaged in “massive money laundering and bank fraud.”
Although the President passed over Bharara for Attorney General, the Silk Road case could add credence to those in power who are seek to ban iGaming in the US for its acceptance of the digital currency Bitcoin.
Most notably, that includes Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who recently announced his own 2016 presidential GOP exploratory committee. A close cohort of Las Vegas Sands magnate Sheldon Adelson, the senator is adamant that Internet gaming can be directly linked to terrorism.
During his questioning of nominated Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Graham asked, “Would you agree one of the best ways for a terrorist organization or a criminal enterprise to be able to enrich themselves is to have online gaming that would be very hard to regulate?”
Once a rising commodity that attracted Wall Street investors, Bitcoin’s price nose-dived following the revelation that criminals found its anonymous and de-centralized nature the perfect currency for fraudulent activities.
However, Bitcoin has remained a widely used online poker currency at several sites, including Seals with Clubs, a network that keeps accounts anonymous and caters to Americans.
Ross Ulbricht Plummets Faster than Bitcoin
Launched in 2011, the story of Silk Road reads like a Jason Statham thriller, but in reality Texas native Ulbricht was the mastermind, running the Deep Web forum from his small apartment in San Francisco with just a laptop and Wi-Fi.
According to evidence presented in court, during the next three years, his platform executed more than one million drug deals, leaving Ulbricht a profit of over $18 million in Bitcoins.
Ulbricht’s parents, who maintain his innocence, insisting he was the fall man for Silk Road, claim their son simply got in over his head. His mother Lyn says, “He’s very idealistic and I could see Ross thinking, ‘I want to create an open market where people can freely trade.'”
But with a Bitcoin bank account growing exponentially, he reportedly lost the “friendly, compassionate, caring” spirit his mother described. When he was arrested, his computer seizure showed activity suggesting he was considering hiring hit men to murder five Silk Road users who threatened to reveal his identity.
Following Ulbricht’s arrest, Silk Road 2.0 immediately launched, but the site was shutdown by the federal government exactly a year later, with his successor Blake Benthall taken into custody.
Someone get Statham on the phone. There’s an action movie to make.