October 2, 2013: Despite the government shut down, the FBI today shut down the infamous “Silk Road” website and arrested a San Francisco resident alleged to be the site’s administrator the “Dread Pirate Roberts.” Silk Road has become renowned in recent years as an anonymous website used for trafficking in illicit substances and pirated goods around the world using “bitcoins.” According to an unsealed complaint filed in the Southern District of New York, the site’s owner is alleged to be Ross Ulbricht who also goes by the pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts.” Ulbricht is charged with conspiracies to commit drug trafficking, money laundering, and computer hacking.
The 33-page complaint makes for fascinating reading, particularly the description of the evidence used to tie Ulbricht to Silk Road. Notably, in late July 2013, the FBI was able to make a copy of a server “located in a certain foreign country” that was used to host Silk Road pursuant to a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty request. From the complaint, it appears that the FBI managed to track the “dread pirate” by Ulricht’s alleged use of his own personal e-mail account (bearing his own name) in connection with Silk Road business.
The FBI estimates that Silk Road raked in commissions of 614,305 bitcoins, about $79.8 million at today’s bitcoin exchange rate.