Authorities have arrested a man in San Francisco, California accused of operating an underground website that allowed users to purchase guns and drugs from around the world using encrypted, digital currency.
Ross William Ulbricht, a 29-year-old graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Materials Science and Engineering known by the online alias “Dread Pirate Roberts,” was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday for his alleged involvement in the Silk Road online marketplace, according to court papers published this week.
The Silk Road website was shut down following Ulbricht’s arrest on Tuesday.
A sealed complaint dated September 27 was unearthed by security researcher Brian Krebs, in which Ulbricht is accused of narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and more.
According to prosecutors, Ulbricht aided in the trafficking of controlled substances from January 2011 up until last week. Through a government investigation, authorities determined that several thousand drug dealers used Silk Road to distribute hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs to over a hundred thousand buyers, laundering hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.
Additionally, prosecutors say Ulbricht solicited a Silk Road user in March of this year to “execute a murder-for-hire.” The would-be victim, according to the FBI, was another user of the website who “threatened to release the identities of thousands of users of the site.” According to the complaint, Ulbricht eventually agreed to pay an online hitman the equivalent of approximately $150,000 to execute the user who threatened to leak customer details.
“Ulbricht has been willing to pursue violent means to maintain his control of the website and the illegal proceeds it generates for him,” the FBI attests. The special agent who filed the criminal complaint wrote that law enforcement has no record of the homicide ever occurring.
Elsewhere in the complaint, authorities quote from a private message between Ulbricht and another user of his site in which the administrator claimed to have previously ordered a “clean hit” for $80,000.
The FBI says that law enforcement agents participating in the Silk Road probe made over 100 individual undercover drug deals from Silk Road vendors since November 2011. Sellers, authorities say, came from no fewer than 10 foreign countries.