A New York jury took a little more than three hours today to convict Ross Ulbricht, the San Francisco man linked to the shadowy online marketplace Silk Road, of seven drug and conspiracy counts.
Prosecutors said the website, which had been labeled the eBay of the drugs trade, allowed drug dealers and others to anonymously reach a broader base of customers. The Associated Press adds:
“The government said drug dealing made up nearly all of Silk Road’s sales during its nearly three years in business, which ended with Ulbricht’s October 2013 arrest. Prosecutors also discounted defense claims that Ulbricht was framed by others in a murky Internet world where nothing is what it seems.
“Prosecutors said Ulbricht enabled more than 1 million drug deals on Silk Road and earned about $18 million in bitcoins. Sales of illegal drugs of every type were delivered through the website, representing at least $180 million in sales, they said.”
In a statement after the verdict, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Ulbricht’s arrest and conviction – and our seizure of millions of dollars of Silk Road Bitcoins – should send a clear message to anyone else attempting to operate an online criminal enterprise. The supposed anonymity of the dark web is not a protective shield from arrest and prosecution.”
Ulbricht was arrested in October 2013 in San Francisco at a public library. He was, prosecutors said, communicating with a man who unbeknownst to him was a Homeland Security agent.
That man, Jared Der-Yeghiayan, was one of many who testified against Ulbricht. Prosecutor said Ulbricht used the handle “Dread Pirate Roberts,” after the character in The Princess Bride, to communicate online.
Joshua Dratel, Ulbricht’s attorney, said evidence proved his client was not “Dread Pirate Roberts.” He said Ulbricht quit Silk Road when it became overrun by drug dealers.
The AP adds: “But Assistant U.S. Attorney Serrin Turner said Ulbricht operated the site from beginning to end and was willing to do anything to protect it. He cited emails that he said showed Ulbricht was willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to kill as many as five people he thought were threats to his operation.”
Sentencing is scheduled for May 15. If convicted, Ulbricht could spend life in prison. He also awaits trial in Baltimore in a murder-to-hire plot.