1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Silk Road conviction

February 5, 2015

The suspected creator of the former drugs trading website Silk Road has been convicted by a New York jury. Ross Ulbricht faces life in prison. The site, which used bitcoins, was closed by authorities in 2013.

Webseite Silk Road 2.0 wurde verboten
Image: Reuters/DOJ

The federal jury in Manhattan took little more than three hours late Wednesday to return a unanimous guilty verdict. The trial represented a landmark case uncovering the murky world of online crime and government surveillance.

Ulbricht, 30, was convicted on seven charges, including drug trafficking and conspiracies to commit money laundering and computer hacking.

Prosecutors said the website, launched in early 2011, enabled at least $180 million (158 million euros) in worldwide sales or more than one million drug deals.

Family and supporters who had attended the trial had claimed that the US case against Ulbricht was an attack on internet freedom. He had pleaded innocent.

Overrun by drug dealers?

Defense lawyer Joshua Dratel on Tuesday said his client had quit Silk Road soon after creating the site before it was overrun by drug dealers.

Ulricht was arrested in late 2013 in San Francisco with a laptop computer containing what prosecutors said was incriminating evidence.

The website relied on Tor, a network for anonymous communications, known also as part of the "dark web," and accepted payment through bitcoins, a digital currency.

Homeland Security Agency Jared DerYeghiayan testified that MDMA pill shipments arranged via the Silk Road website were first intercepted at Chicago's O'Hare Airport in June 2011.

Drug shipments were soon being sent through many countries, he said.

Prosecutors said 95 percent of the products traded were drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, and crystal meth. The rest were fake IDs, hacking tools and hacking services. Ulbricht is said to have earned about $18 million.

Second trial pending

Still pending is a second trial scheduled for May in Baltimore. Prosecutors allege that Ulbricht tried to protect Silk Road by plotting murders of as many as five persons he thought were threats to his operation.

No evidence has emerged that such murders were actually carried out.

A second version of Silk Road sprung up just weeks after Ulbricht's arrest. It was shut down (picture above) and its alleged operator was charged last November.

ipj/bk (AP, Reuters, AFP)