On Friday, US District Judge Katherine Forrest sentenced Ross Ulbricht, the architect of the million-dollar underground drug website named Silk Road, to life imprisonment after a federal jury in February found him guilty on multiple charges.
Ross Ulbricht, 31, grew up in Austin, Texas and conspired to create an illegal website that enabled him to make anonymous online drug sales to the tune of $200 million. By operating on the Tor network, the website allowed users to communicate anonymously. Ulbricht also let customers make payments using the digital currency ‘bitcoin’, which allowed users to conceal their identities and locations.
Silk Road was run under the alias Dread Pirate Roberts, a reference to a character in the 1987 movie ‘The Princess Bride’. It operated for over two years, before being shutdown in October 2013 when Ulbricht was arrested from the San Francisco library. In the two years that the website was operational, it permitted users to anonymously buy drugs and other illicit goods, generating over $214 million in sales for the website.
On Friday when Ulbricht arrived to the court in blue jail clothing, he made an apology to the families of the victims, who had died from overdoses of drugs linked to Silk Road. He, however, denied wrongdoing and said he built Silk Road, as he wanted to empower people to make choices in their lives and have privacy and anonymity.
The judge, taking into account the alleged death of six people due to drug overdoses linked to Silk Road and the fact that Silk Road had, in fact, become a ‘dark market’ prompting the creation of many other websites that allow illegal drug sales, held Ulbricht guilty of charges including conspiracy to commit drug trafficking, money laundering and computer hacking. She also passed an order to forfeit $183.9 million.
However, Ulbricht’s lawyer, Joshua Dratel, promised to bring in an appeal, condemning the sentence as being ‘unreasonable, unjust and unfair’.