29-year-old Ross William Ulbricht, suspected of being Dread Pirate Roberts, the mastermind of the Silk Road underground marketplace, has been charged with narcotics conspiracy, conspiracy to commit computer hacking, money laundering and engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise. He faces life in prison.
The narcotics conspiracy charge is punishable with a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years, but the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. Life in prison is also the maximum sentence for the engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise charge.
For the hacking charge, Ulbricht faces a maximum of five years, while for the money laundering charge the maximum sentence is 20 years in prison.
While the man continues to maintain his innocence, US authorities say he had owned and operated Silk Road since January 2011. The Tor-based underground marketplace offered a wide variety of services and products, including illegal drugs, forgeries and cybercriminal services.
Prosecutors also believe that Ulbricht ordered six murders to protect his criminal enterprise. However, there’s no evidence that anyone had been killed.
Dread Pirate Roberts used Bitcoins to launder his criminal proceeds. Investigators seized a total of 173,991 Bitcoins.
Since he has been deemed a flight risk, Ulbricht has been denied bail. Shortly after his arrest in October 2013, the complaint filed against Ulbricht revealed that he had made several rookie mistakes that allowed the FBI to identify him.
His family has set up a legal defense fund, arguing that the case has “far-reaching implications” for all Internet users.
In addition to Ulbricht, three other individuals have been indicted for allegedly assisting the operator of Silk Road. They are Gary Davis (Libertas), Andrew Michael Jones (Inigo), and Peter Philip Nash (Samesamebutdifferent). The investigation is ongoing.