The Undisclosed Story Of The Silk Road Saga

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Dread Pirate RobertsThe story about the rise and ultimate fall of the Silk Road has been in the news for the past few years, and culminated in its founder Ross Ulbricht, who went by the handle “Dread Pirate Roberts”, being found guilty of creating and operating the online marketplace. His sentencing has been postponed to 29th of May, and he is also expected to appeal his conviction.

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While people know some of the names of the big players in this story, not too many people really know how the Silk Road came about, becoming the largest online marketplace to buy and sell illegal drugs, and how it all came crashing down.

Ross Ulbricht, a smart young man who grew up in Austin, Texas, went from a student at Penn State University, who was working on getting his master’s degree in materials science and engineering.

While he was at Penn State, Ulbricht became less interested in engineering, and more interested in economics. Upon his graduation, he moved back home to Austin, where he tried his hands at trading, and video game developing with no success. He eventually helped his friend build a website that sold used books, and it had some success after a while. While running the book company, Ulbricht started learning about bitcoins, which could be used anonymously, and had the idea to create a marketplace where anybody can buy anything, including drugs. In January 2011, the Silk Road marketplace was live.

Silk Road enjoyed a lot of uninterrupted success for over a year, before law enforcement agencies got wind of what was going on, and made over $1 billion in sales, but soon after, it all started to crumble.

The first crack in the Silk Road armor came through the arrest of Curtis Green, a 47-year -old man who lived in Utah, and was busted for possession of $27,000 worth of cocaine, with intent to distribute, during a DEA sting operation. He ended up working for the government, due to fears of him being assassinated by Ulbricht, if word of his arrest ever got out, because of what he knew about the operation.

Another major player in the Silk Road saga was Special Agent Carl Mark Force IV, a DEA agent who went undercover with the sole purpose of becoming friends with Ulbricht, by pretending to be a cartel operative. He started to build a little trust with Ulbricht, and caught a break when Ulbricht found out that Curtis Green had been arrested. He figured correctly that Green would cooperate with law enforcement agents, and also found out that $350,000 in bitcoins went missing, so he enlisted Force to torture him and eventually asked him to execute Green.

DEADespite the fact that he asked a DEA agent to commit murder, nobody knew who Ulbricht was, until June 2013, when a Reddit user posted a warning about the Silk Road’s IP address being visible to others. This was the break that law enforcement agents had been waiting for, and it led to them finding out Ulbricht’s physical address in San Francisco, where he had been living. Law enforcement agents paid him a visit at the address, but still couldn’t prove that he was Dread Pirate Roberts, so they couldn’t arrest him.

Now that they knew who he was, the law enforcement agents kept a close eye on him, waiting for him to slip up. Eventually, they were able to get access to the Silk Road, as administrators. They used the access that they had as administrative users to confirm that he was indeed Dread Pirate Roberts, and they were able to arrest him at a local library, in October 2013, a few months after they tracked him down.

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