Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the Silk Road, a dark web bazaar where shoppers bought and sold illegal goods with bitcoin, has been sentenced to life in prison.
Having been convicted on seven charges - including narcotics and money laundering conspiracies - back in February, Ulbrict was handed five sentences - two life, one of 20 year, one of 15 years and one of five by Judge Katherine Forrest of Manhattan’s US district court for the southern district of New York. They are to be served concurrently.
Earlier this week Ulbricht - who went by the online name Dread Pirate Roberts - has asked the judge for leniency, writing: "I know you must take away my middle years, but please leave me my old age."
Ulbricht ran the Silk Road from 2011 until 2013, offering users the chance to buy illegal services and goods, like drugs, with bitcoin.
In late 2013 the FBI swooped in to close the site and arrest Ulbricht, seizing a laptop full of incriminating evidence. They also seized millions of dollars in bitcoin which would be used in evidence against him because he had not laundered his currency, meaning that it could be tracked through the public ledger. Former FBI agent Ilhwan Yum told the court that he traced more than $13 million in transactions from the Silk Road to Ulbricht's wallet.
Bitcoin was the only form of payment accepted on the Silk Road, with the site essentially operating an internal bank where every user had to hold an account. These accounts - nearly a million were registered - had bitcoin addresses stored on wallets on servers controlled by the site. Once the wallets were loaded with currency, they could be used to buy from vendors on the site, with Ulbricht charging a commission of between eight per cent and 15%.
During his trial, Ulbricht admitted that he started the site but claimed to have left it within months. At one point claims surfaced that the "real" Dread Pirate Roberts was the former boss of bankrupt bitcoin exchange MT.Gox, Mark Karpeles.