US trial of alleged Silk Road creator has begun

oss Ulbricht, the alleged creator and operator of the Silk Road underground market, is being accused of making millions from the site where drugs and other illegal commodities were bought and sold. The trial is currently being held in New York, where Mr. Ulbricht has pleaded not guilty to the charges filed against him. Mr. Ulbricht has not yet admitted to ever running the site.

Prosecutors have claimed that the site has generated over a million untraceable drug deals and has made Mr. Ulbricht $18 million in bitcoin commissions under the online handle "Dread Pirate Roberts." The charges Mr. Ulbricht is being accused of are:

  • Operating a criminal enterprise
  • Conspiring to commit narcotics trafficking
  • Money laundering
  • Computer hacking

If Mr. Ulbricht is found guilty on all charges, he could face up to life in prison.

Mr. Ulbricht was first arrested in a San Francisco public library back in 2013 while he was allegedly chatting online with someone he thought was a colleague, but was actually an undercover FBI agent. The jury was told that agents caught Mr. Ulbricht red-handed, with his fingers on the keyboard.

Among other things, Mr. Ulbricht had allegedly hired hit men to kill those who posed a threat to the digital drugs empire - although the prosecution never claimed anyone was actually murdered. Despite the claim, the New York trial will not deal with the murder plot charges, although evidence related to them will still be presented in court.

The Silk Road was shut down back in October 2013, following raids by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. The US claims that the market operated from January 2011 to late 2013, and that tens of thousands of people used it to trade drugs, acquire forged documents, and buy and sell hacking services. The Silk Road operated as a "hidden" service on the Tor network, allowing people to use it anonymously. Anonymity was further aided by payments through the virtual currency known as bitcoin.

More than 29,000 bitcoins seized during the 2013 raid were sold by US marshals in June this year for $17m (£11m). The FBI is believed to be in possession of a larger hoard of bitcoins seized from the site.

Mr Ulbricht's family and friends have set up a website to help defend him saying he is innocent of all charges and had nothing to do with the Silk Road and its operation.

Apparently, a documentary called "Deep Web" has been made about the case, Mr. Ulbricht's treatment, and how the FBI tracked him down. The documentary is due to be released later this year.

Source: BBC | Image: Uncredited

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