The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has seized the website known as the, Silk Road, the most popular underground marketplace for illicit services.
The alleged founder known by his online alias, Dread Pirate Roberts, or Ross William Ulbricht, was apprehended in San Francisco, reportedly storing 26,000 bitcoins, worth a total of $3.6 million.
29-Year-Old college graduate from the University of Pennsylvania School of Materials Science and Engineering, is being charged with one count of conspiracy to traffic narcotics, computer hacking and money laundering, alongside allegedly paying $730,000 to kill six people.
The Silk Road began in early 2011, offering a variety of services, including tutorials on hacking financial systems, black market contacts, guns, hit men for sale, drugs among a number of other illicit services.
The Silk Road was a domain ran through hidden services, only accessible through the online anonymity Tor Network, a custom web browser that routes through its own intranet allowing users to bounce through nodes encrypting their traffic with each hop, making it near impossible to track the identity of the person using it.
According the the murder charges Ulbricht faces, he allegedly asked a Silk Road user to murder another user who threatened to expose his identity to the Silk Road community on March 29th, according to Ross’s court filings.
The FBI cites Ulbricht’s personal LinkedIn profile, targeting him claiming it points to his motivation of operating the online drug bazaar,
“I love learning and using theoretical constructs to better understand the world around me. Naturally therefore, I studied physics in college and worked as a research scientist for five years. I published my findings in peer reviewed journals five times over that period, first on organic solar cells and then on EuO thin-film crystals. My goal during this period of my life was simply to expand the frontier of human knowledge.
Now, my goals have shifted. I want to use economic theory as a means to abolish the use of coercion and oppression [sic] amongst mankind. Just as slavery has been abolished most everywhere, I believe violence, coercion and all forms of force by one person over another can come to an end. The most widespread and systemic use of force is amongst institutions and governments, so this is my current point of effort. The best way to change a government is to change the minds of the governed, however. To that end, I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force.”
For users to remain anonymous during their transactions, the marketplace ran from the online cryptocurrency known as BitCoin, an anonymous virtual currency allowing for anonymous payments throughout the service. The decentralized currency routes through a peer-to-peer network allowing for anyone to use the currency anonymously.
Since the seizure of the Silk Road marketplace, the rate for BitCoin has dropped a near 20 percent.
Ross William Ulbricht has pleaded not guilty to all charges thus far, awaiting his trial scheduled for January 2015.