From 2011 to 2013, a man named Ross Ulbricht ran an underground website known asSilk Road. The site was rife with illegal trade that encompassed everything from illicit drugs to black market weapons. The FBI discovered the enterprise, and in October 2013, tracked down Ulbricht and arrested him on numerous charges.
This February, a federal jury found him guilty of all seven counts related to the Silk Road operation.
A new kind of marketplace
Reading like a Hollywood thriller, the story of Silk Road captured media attention coast to coast when news broke about the black market enterprise.
It used the dark corners of the internet, initially shielded from law enforcement and accessible only by those in the know, to offer up marijuana, cocaine, LSD, heroin, ecstasy and more in a whole new kind of illegal trade: an underground online marketplace. To conceal payments and prevent paper trails, users had to submit encrypted digital currency (bitcoins) in exchange for their illegal purchases. Their payments were then held in escrow until transactions were complete. From an operations standpoint, Silk Road was highly functioning enterprise.
For more than two years, Ross Ulbricht (who went under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts) managed the site unbeknownst to law officials. But his shadowy operation wouldn’t stay anonymous for long. In October 2013, the FBI shut down Silk Road and arrested Ulbricht.
The darkest side of a black market
Early estimates suggested the site raked in some$1 billion before its takedown, though at Ulbricht’s trial, the prosecution’s evidence pointed to a figure closer to$200 million. Regardless of the actual number, the investigation proved that the marketplace transacted millions of illegal exchanges during the course of its existence, offering secret access and untraceable purchase patterns reminiscent of a spy movie.
According toThe New York Times, prosecutors painted Ross Ulbricht as the calculating creator of Silk Road. They introduced evidence not only of the drug and illegal trade operation itself, but also of his intent to hire hitmen(a story we featured last year) to murder people he viewed as threats to his business.
Jury says “guilty”
After hearing testimonies from both the defense and prosecution, the jury took just three and a half hours to decide that Ross Ulbricht was indeed guilty of all the charges brought against him.
His sentencing will take place on May 15.
Fascinating as the story may be, it’s important to recognize that Ulbricht and his Silk Road operation exploited drug addicts and relied on criminal activity for the purpose of gaining personal profits. When it all boiled down, he was not a do-good “pirate,” like his online namesake, nor was he a movie plot hero. He was a drug dealer, plain and simple.
Perhaps even worse, Ulbricht didn’t simply prey on the vulnerability of others to make money; he founded a marketplace that had a global reach, allowing networks of dealers to sell to customers (addicts) they could have never otherwise met.
Evidenced by Silk Road’s once-thriving global enterprise, addiction doesn’t lurk exclusively in inner cities and neighborhoods. It’s everywhere, and it’s literally a worldwide problem, from America to Afghanistan. Without addiction, Silk Road’s online marketplace could not have been viable
Silk Road was ultimately exposed for the seedy underground world it was and the jury decided Ulbricht should pay for his role in developing it. Unfortunately, the jury’s decision does little to help the addicts Silk Road supplied.
Despite its strongholds, addiction is a disease that can be overcome. If you are struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, or if you’re looking for help for a loved one who is, The Watershed has resources that can help you. Call our hotline 24/7: 1-800-861-1768.Tags: internet addiction, Internet Addicts, silk road