San Francisco Silk Road founder Ross William Ulbricht in US gets life for creating online drug site

May 30, 2015 10:04 am

 

Ross William Ulbricht is seated in court and awaits sentencing. Photo / AP

A San Francisco man who created the underground drug-selling website
Silk Road was sentenced Friday to life in prison by a judge who cited
six deaths from drugs bought on his site and five people he tried to
have killed.
District Judge Katherine Forrest told 31-year-old
Ross Ulbricht he was a criminal even though he doesn’t fit the typical
profile – he has two collegiate degrees – and she brushed aside his
efforts to characterize the business as merely a big mistake.
“It was a carefully planned life’s work. It was your opus,” she said. “You are no better a person than any other drug dealer.”
Ulbricht’s
2013 arrest shut down what prosecutors described as an unprecedented
one-stop online shopping mall where the supply of drugs was virtually
limitless, enabling nearly 4,000 drug dealers to expand their markets
from the sidewalk to cyberspace, selling drugs on a never-before-seen
scale to more than 100,000 buyers in markets stretching from Argentina
to Australia, from the to Ukraine.

The government said in court papers that Ulbricht left a
blueprint that others have followed by establishing new “dark markets”
in sophisticated spaces of the internet that are hard to trace, where an
even broader range of illicit goods are sold than were available on
Silk Road.
Forrest said the sentence could show copycats there
are “very serious consequences.” She also ordered $183 million
forfeiture. Prosecutors had not asked for a life sentence, saying only
they wanted substantially more than the 20-year mandatory minimum.
Ulbricht was convicted in February of operating the site for nearly three years from 2011 until 2013.
Prosecutors
say he collected $18 million in bitcoins through commissions on a
website containing thousands of listings under categories like
“Cannabis,” “Psychedelics” and “Stimulants.” They said he brokered more
than 1 million drug deals worth over $183 million while he operated on
the site under the alias Dread Pirate Roberts — a reference to the
swashbuckling character in “The Princess Bride.”
The judge said
Ulbricht’s efforts to arrange the murders of five people he deemed as
threats to his business was proof that Silk Road had not become the
“world without restrictions, of ultimate freedom” that he claimed he
sought. Ulbricht also is charged in Baltimore federal court in an
attempted murder-for-hire scheme.
“You were captain of the ship,
Dread Pirate Roberts,” Forrest said. “It was a world with laws you
created. … It was a place with a lot of rules. If you broke the rules,
you’d have all kinds of things done to you.”
Prosecutors cited
at least five deaths traced to overdoses from drugs bought on Silk Road,
and two parents who lost sons spoke in court.
Before the
sentence was announced, a sniffling and apologetic Ulbricht told Forrest
he’s a changed man who is not greedy or vain by nature.
“I’ve
essentially ruined my life and broken the hearts of every member of my
family and my closest friends,” he said. “I’m not a self-centered
sociopathic person that was trying to express some inner badness. I do
love freedom. It’s been devastating to lose it.”
His lawyer, Joshua Dratel, said he was “disappointed tremendously” by the sentence.
Outside
court, Ulbricht’s mother, Lyn, called the war on drugs a failure and
said two of the victims in the case died during the four months that
authorities investigated but did not shut down the website.
His
hands folded before him, Ulbricht was stoic as the sentence was
announced. As he left the courtroom, he carried with him photographs of
those who died as a result of drugs purchased on Silk Road.

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