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Meet the man behind Silk Road, the online drug marketplace the FBI has seized

Colin Neagle | Oct. 3, 2013
The FBI seized Silk Road this week after its suspected leader, Ross William Ulbricht, was allegedly using the service to hire hit men.

Ulbricht first revealed his true identity when he started looking to hire people to work on Silk Road in October 2011. In a post to a Bitcoin Talk forum, an anonymous account called "altoid" sought "IT pros in the Bitcoin community" who were interested in working for "a venture backed Bitcoin startup company." Those interested were told to contact the email address "rossulbricht at gmail dot com," according to the FBI. That slip up tipped the FBI to Ulbricht's social profiles, IP address and eventually his home address.

One section of the report explains Ulbricht's alleged "willingness to use violence to protect his interests in Silk Road." In March, a Silk Road vendor using an account called "FriendlyChemist" sent messages to Ulbricht threatening to release a list of the site's user's actual names and addresses unless Ulbricht paid him $500,000, which the extorter claimed to have needed "to pay off his narcotics suppliers," the report says.

In ensuing messages with an account called "redandwhite" that purported to be FriendlyChemist's suppliers, Ulbricht allegedly called the user a "liability" and said "I wouldn't mind if he was executed." He then provided what he believed to be the name and hometown - White Rock, British Columbia, Canada - of the user behind the FriendlyChemist account.

In the ensuing four days, the two accounts negotiated the murder of the user behind the FriendlyChemist account for $150,000, and confirmed that it had been completed by sending "a photo of the victim" on March 31, 2013, the report claims.

However, the FBI's investigation suggests that no such murder was ever committed.

"Although I believe the foregoing exchange demonstrates DPR's intention to solicit a murder-for-hire, I have spoken with Canadian law enforcement authorities, who have no record of there being any Canadian resident with the name DPR passed to redandwhite as the target of solicited murder-for-hire. Nor do they have any record of a homicide occurring in White Rock, British Columbia on or about March 31, 2013," the report says.

At one point, while negotiating a price for the hit, Ulbricht suggested that this was not the first time he'd sought this kind of arrangement.

"Don't want to be a pain here, but the price seems high," Ulbricht allegedly wrote. "Not long ago, I had a clean hit done for $80k. Are the prices you quoted the best you can do? I would like this done asap [sic] as he is talking about releasing the info on Monday."

The arrest is the culmination of what appears to be a crackdown on Internet drug services. On Sept. 21, online drug market place Atlantis, which positioned itself as the more user-friendly alternative to Silk Road and even went as far as offering discounts to users who had left Silk Road, announced that it was shutting down "due to security reasons outside of [their] control," adding that they "wouldn't be doing this if it weren't 100% necessary."


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