DPR Is The New Face Of Organized Crime

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Ross William UlbrichtRoss William Ulbricht, also known as Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR), was arrested in October 2013 for establishing the online black market Silk Road, following extensive joint federal investigations. The 31-year old Silk Road founder was sentenced to life imprisonment after he was convicted on several felony charges. Judge Katherine Forrest served the harshest possible sentence in order to deter others from following his footsteps. During sentencing, she said that what he did with the website was dreadfully destructive to the social fabric.


Dread Pirate Roberts represents the changing face of organized crime as sophisticated criminal activity migrates to the virtual world. To perpetrate an online global enterprise for illicit activities, all that a young man requires is a laptop and Internet connection.

The Silk Road

Silk Road Marketplace

Silk Road website was created by Ulbricht in 2011 on Tor which enables buyers and sellers to anonymously trade illicit goods using Bitcoin, a virtual currency. Tor, originally created for the US Navy, protects online government communications, shielding the users from prying eyes. Silk Road was not the only Tor hidden market then, but it dominated the cryptomarket landscape for 2 years before the authorities shut it down. As many as 24,000 items were available on the site and they were mostly drugs. Out of the $1.2 million in sales that the site generated on a monthly basis, approximately $90,000 was shared by Ulbricht and associates.

Ulbricht is not the stereotype organized crime mob boss that the world has seen so far. His friends and family describe him as a humble, modest and caring person. However, the seven charges leveled against him included conspiracy to laundering money and traffic narcotics, operating a criminal enterprise as its kingpin and conspiring with others for trafficking in fraudulent Id documents.

The non-profit organization responsible for maintaining Tor, the Tor Project, says that the software provides a great deal of benefits to its 2.5 million users, including child protection, journalists’ safety and safe whistleblowing. However, criminals also take full advantage of the anonymity provided by Tor for buying and selling of illegal items.

Several darknet marketplaces have sprung up after Silk Road was shut down by the law enforcement authorities. As of now, at least 45 darknet marketplaces are in operation. Users who wants to buy illicit ware has to just create an account, select the required item, specify the quantity and pay using bitcoin. The item is then shipped through snail-mail. Stealth shipping methods, to prevent detection by law enforcement authorities, are also employed at an additional cost.