Crackdown on Silk Road, the underground drug market

Silk Road laptop

Silk Road was like a black market Amazon.com where you could buy drugs, hacking tools, forged documents, and more. The site operated for three years without consequence, protected by the anonymizing Tor network and the forced use of hard-to-trace virtual currency Bitcoin. It seemed untouchable; its owner, the pseudonymous Dread Pirate Roberts, even declared the war on drugs over and himself the victor in an interview with Forbes. Then in October of 2013, federal agents shut down the site and arrested the man they believe to be responsible.

25 updates and 1410 comments below.

Jun 13 9:32a

US government selling nearly $18 million in bitcoin seized from Silk Road

Looking to buy some Bitcoin? The US government has plenty to sell. It's put up for auction the more than 29,000 bitcoins that it seized from the underground drug sales site Silk Road earlier this year, all of which are currently valued at close to $18 million. The auction will occur and close later this month, and bidders won't be required to purchase the entire, expensive chunk. Instead, it'll be broken up into 10 chunks, most of which are worth about $1.8 million, and interested parties can...

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Jun 02 12:58p

Silk Road may have prevented drug violence, study says

Silk Road, the now-shuttered underground website where people could buy and sell illegal goods, was often referred to as the "eBay for drugs," implying that end users were the ones buying the drugs in small amounts.

But Silk Road also facilitated dealer-to-dealer transactions, according to an unpublished but thorough study by two researchers at the University of Manchester and University of Lausanne. The volume of these dealer-level sales may have been large enough to reduce drug violence on...

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Apr 01 2:40p

Alleged Silk Road owner says he can't be guilty of money laundering if bitcoin isn't money

Ross Ulbricht, who stands accused of running the Silk Road black market under the name "Dread Pirate Roberts," says that new federal bitcoin laws make the charges against him invalid. In a filing over the weekend, Ulbricht's lawyers defended him against charges of hacking, narcotics trafficking, operating a criminal conspiracy, and money laundering. The first three charges, his lawyers argue, are "unconstitutionally broad" and can't be applied to the normal operation of a website, even one...

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Feb 07 2:22p

Alleged Silk Road owner pleads not guilty to all charges

Ross Ulbricht, the 29-year-old man accused of operating the digital underground drug marketplace Silk Road, has pleaded not guilty on all charges despite the fact that prosecutors say they have eight to 10 terabytes worth of evidence, reports Forbes.

Ulbricht faces more than 20 years in prison on allegations that he engaged in narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy related to activities on Silk Road. More than $1.2 billion worth of...

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Jan 20 10:14a

Inside the government's case against Silk Road

This weekend, The New York Times took a long look at the federal case against Ross Ulbricht, alleged organizer of the online drug market Silk Road. The Times takes a particularly close look at how the government tracked down the precise location of the Silk Road's overseas server, which Ulbricht's defense team alleges may have involved NSA tracking. The piece also takes a new look at the moment Ulbricht was apprehended by the agents, which was more intricate than many realize. Agents took...

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Jan 16 6:01p

US Attorney seizes $28 million in Bitcoin from the Silk Road server

Today, federal attorneys announced the forfeiture of 29,655 bitcoins from the Silk Road server, adding up to over $28 million at current exchange rates. The forfeiture is part of a larger audit of the contents of the Silk Road servers, which had been seized in connection with an ongoing civil forfeiture action against the site — but before this announcement, the sheer volume of the site's wealth was still unclear.

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Nov 06 1:48p

Alleged Silk Road kingpin Ross Ulbricht arrives in New York

Ross Ulbricht, the man charged with running Silk Road, an underground website where people bought and sold illegal drugs, appeared in a New York court today after being arrested in San Francisco more than a month ago.

The lanky 29 year old was wearing a brown-and-blue prison uniform and was clean-shaven and lucid when he spoke to the magistrate. He was transferred to New York City last night around 6PM and met his attorney, national security specialist Joshua Dratel, for the first time...

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Silk Road 2.0 launches with goal of resurrecting web's most popular drug marketplace

The Silk Road is back. A relaunched version of the online drug marketplace has gone live today, joining existing alternatives that have seen a surge in popularity after authorities shut down the original Silk Road and busted its alleged mastermind. Silk Road 2.0 again tries to conceal the identity of both buyers and sellers by hiding itself behind the anonymizing network Tor, and Bitcoin remains the site's preferred currency. The site's administrator has even taken on the moniker of Dread...

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Oct 25 3:06p

FBI reportedly seizes $28.5 million in bitcoin from Silk Road mastermind

The FBI has seized $28.5 million worth of bitcoins from the alleged mastermind behind the online drug market Silk Road, according to a report from Forbes. An unnamed FBI official reportedly tells Forbes that the agency seized a collection of 144,000 bitcoins that belonged to Ross Ulbricht, who earlier this month was arrested and charged with being the owner of Silk Road. This is reportedly the largest seizure of bitcoin — the semi-anonymous digital currency — ever made, and is said to have...

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Oct 16 4:32p

Silk Road hitman story to become a feature film from the author of 'Shutter Island'

Earlier this month Ross Ulbricht, the owner of the online black market Silk Road, was charged with hiring a hitman to knock off one of his employees — and the story may be coming to a theater near you. Deadline reports that 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment have hired Dennis Lehane, the novelist behind Shutter Island, to adapt an Epic Magazine article by Joshua Davis about the story for the big screen. The twist is that the Epic Magazine article hasn't actually been published yet.


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Accused Silk Road boss just hired a high-profile national security lawyer

Ross Ulbricht, the man accused of running Silk Road.

Ross Ulbricht, the man accused of running the underground drug website Silk Road, has finally hired an attorney to represent him on charges of narcotics trafficking conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, and computer hacking conspiracy. Ulbricht was represented by a public defender at first, but friends and family have managed to find a hotshot lawyer to take the case: Joshua Dratel, a New York-based attorney who has built his career on...

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Oct 14 1:26p

The LSD Avengers, Silk Road’s self-appointed drug inspectors, announce retirement

Acid is a freaky drug; it can make you feel like you’re a kid again, or trap you in a real-life horror movie. So when you buy it off the internet, there’s understandably some trepidation: is this going to make me completely lose my mind forever?

A group calling itself The LSD Avengers arose to answer that question for users of the Silk Road, the deep-web black market that sold drugs and other contraband until police took it down earlier this month. After a slew of scams on the site and...

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Lessons from Silk Road: don't host your virtual illegal drug bazaar in Iceland

When it comes to protecting your virtual black market from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), some countries are better than others. As it turns out, Iceland is probably not where you want to be. While the country may have protected WikiLeaks from the Americans, it's not harboring the recently busted illegal drug bazaar Silk Road. The Reykjavik Metropolitan Police have confirmed that they handed over data on the Silk Road at the request of American authorities.

It's unclear how much...

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Oct 12 2:22p

Silk Road commemorated with special edition ecstasy pills

A drug dealer is keeping the memory of digital black market Silk Road alive with specially-printed ecstasy pills. "To pay our respect to DPR and to forever remember the legacy that was Silk Road we have made a small batch of special units," reads a message on the online storefront for TheHeineken, which sells an array of narcotics. "DPR" refers to Dread Pirate Roberts, the man behind Silk Road. Last week the FBI arrested Ross Ulbricht — who the agency alleges is Dread Pirate Roberts — and s...

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Oct 09 1:12p

Alleged Silk Road mastermind will sit in jail while he awaits transfer to New York

Ross William Ulbricht, alleged founder of underground marketplace Silk Road, agreed to be transferred to New York to face the charges against him at a hearing today in San Francisco. In a hearing that lasted less than five minutes, Ulbricht's public defender said Ulbricht would not protest his detention as he awaits his transfer to New York. He retains the right to pursue bail after he arrives in New York.

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Oct 08 9:55a

Police have started busting alleged top Silk Road drug dealers

After seizing the digital black market Silk Road and arresting its alleged owner, the police are now going after the users of the site. Police have arrested a man in Washington alleged to be one of the top 1 percent of drug sellers as well as four users in the UK with more arrests to come, according to news reports. Two Swedish men were also reportedly arrested for selling marijuana on Silk Road.

Oct 07 10:09a

Silk Road closure reportedly cuts off supply of drug for assisted suicides

The shutdown of Silk Road, the secret online marketplace for illegal drugs and other goods, may be having a grim side effect. The site was used by junkies and Timothy Leary types, but a doctor in Australia claims it was also an important resource for chronically ill patients pursuing euthanasia, or assisted suicide.

Euthanasia is illegal in many countries, but there are still doctors and advocates who will help distressed patients seeking voluntary death. Usually these patients are in so...

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Oct 05 4:35p

Alleged Silk Road mastermind Ross Ulbricht denies charges, says lawyer

Ross Ulbricht, the alleged founder of underground marketplace Silk Road, denied his charges in a San Francisco federal court yesterday, via his lawyer. Ulbricht's public defender, Brandon LeBlanc, told reporters outside of court that "We deny all charges and that’s the end of the discussion," according to Bloomberg News.

He added that "We are trying to put together the best bail proposal possible," after the lawyer successfully lobbied Judge Joseph Spero for extra time to put together a bail...

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Oct 04 5:20p

Someone found the FBI's Bitcoin wallet and now people are sending mean notes to it

When the FBI seize took control of the digital black market Silk Road, it also seized control of a bunch of money: about 26,000 bitcoins, a virtual currency that approximates cash on the internet. Bitcoins are worth about $122 each, which means the government is sitting on a pretty pile of cash. So why are enraged users sending the federal agency Bitcoin donations?

It's possible to attach text to Bitcoin transactions using the site Blockchain.info, where messages are streamed for the public...

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After Silk Road's demise, online drug dealing moves to new sites

Patrons of the Silk Road, by far the largest online marketplace for buying illegal drugs, were understandably alarmed when the FBI seized and shut down the site earlier this week. The black market's customers were concerned about the money they had stored on the site in the virtual currency Bitcoin — and worried the feds would come after them next. And they were panicking about something else: where to buy drugs now.

"FUUUCKKK," a user named PsychedelicSphere wrote on the Silk Road forums,...

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Oct 03 1:01p

Purported roommate of Silk Road owner: 'he was kinda vague about what he did for a living'

Yesterday afternoon, someone wrote a short post on the music and culture forum Hipinion titled, "My housemate got arrested for hacking." A recent San Francisco transplant posting under the handle "Jef Costello" claimed he came home to find his housemate gone, and a search and seizure order that mentioned hacking, the anonymizing software Tor, the virtual currency Bitcoin, and Silk Road in his place.

"Dude was kinda vague about what he did for a living, so this isn't too surprising, I guess,"...

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Silk Road owner charged again, this time for hiring a hitman in Maryland

Ross Ulbricht, the man accused of running the underground drug marketplace Silk Road, has been charged with drug trafficking and hiring a hitman to knock off one of his employees. Of course, the hitman was actually an undercover federal agent in Maryland, and no one was actually killed.

Silk Road had a handful of employees, according to court documents, and apparently one of them went astray. This employee, who is not named in the indictment, stole money from users and also managed to get...

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Oct 02 7:35p

The FBI busted Silk Road, but not the 'dark web' behind it

Silk Road, the underground website where dealers sold illegal drugs, was supposed to be safe. The site was nestled deep in the dark web, accessible only through the anonymizing network Tor. All transactions were done in the anonymizing virtual currency Bitcoin. Its owner-operator, Dread Pirate Roberts, was said to be a criminal mastermind and technical wunderkind who never left a trail. It was all very hackerish and clandestine.

And yet, today the FBI shut down the site and arrested Dread...

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Bitcoin price nosedives after bust of underground drug market Silk Road

The price of Bitcoin, the semi-anonymous e-currency that acts like virtual cash, is falling rapidly after the bust of underground drug marketplace Silk Road. Silk Road was by far the largest single source of Bitcoin transactions, conducting more than $1 billion worth of business exclusively in the virtual currency. Federal agents shut the site down today and arrested the man they say is behind it.

The news of Silk Road's demise sent the price of Bitcoin, which had been holding at around...

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FBI seizes underground drug market Silk Road, owner indicted in New York

It appears the Federal Bureau of Investigation has finally cracked down on Silk Road, the underground marketplace where users could buy cocaine, heroin, meth, and more using the virtual currency Bitcoin. The Verge has obtained a copy of the criminal complaint, civil forfeiture complaint, and protective order filed in the Southern District of New York against Ross Ulbricht, who is alleged to be the mastermind behind the site and the handle Dread Pirate Roberts.

Ulbricht is being charged with...

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Aug 14 5:42p

Silk Road manager says Bitcoin let it win the War on Drugs

Online drug bazaar Silk Road was made possible by Tor's anonymity software, but the site's head — known as the Dread Pirate Roberts — says it was Bitcoin that let it grow. "We've won the State's War on Drugs because of Bitcoin," he tells Forbes for an interview and profile. But even as new competitor Atlantis promises "dank buds" in a blunt, now-deleted YouTube ad, Roberts describes his site as an ideological blow against regulation and surveillance. And the anonymity he values extends far...

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