On Tuesday night, the FBI seized and shut down Silk Road, the digital black market where you could buy drugs, fake IDs and pretty much anything else illegal that could be fit into a FedEx box or a file. According to the feds the site's proprietor is alleged to be Ross William Ulbricht who is accused of a murder-for-hire scheme involving 1,670 bitcoins. That comes out to about $150,000. And here's the section from the criminal complaint outlining the charge (DPR refers to Dread Pirate Roberts, which is the name the site's owner went by online):
Ulbricht was arrested on Tuesday night in San Francisco. Back in 2011, Gawker's Adrien Chen wrote a lengthy expose revealing all the different drugs you could find on the underground website, and this past August, Forbes published a lengthy piece on how elusive Dread Pirate Roberts had been and how dark his digital underground empire had become. According to the criminal complaint obtained by journalist Brian Krebs, prosecutors have charged Ulbricht with counts of computer hacking conspiracy, narcotics trafficking conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy. The criminal complaint alleges that From February 6, 2011 to July 23, 2013 (a little over two years) there were more than 1.2 million transactions involving over 145,000 unique accounts which totaled approximately $1.2 billion in revenue and $79 million in commissions (at the current Bitcoin exchange rate).
With the website seized, tech bloggers have been furiously googling for Ulbricht's public digital trail. Apparently, the man behind one of the most notorious black markets the world has ever seen uses LinkedIn:
And there are screencaps showing that he used that profile to publish a manifesto which hinted at his big plans to use the web to change the very nature of government and laws:
The Silk Road was never just a one-man operation, though. And now the question shifts to how many people could be busted for this and who is and isn't safe. As Buzzfeed' John Herrmann points out, its shutdown has affected offline drug dealers who no longer have the money to cover their debts. He writes:
In order to buy something on Silk Road, you first have to transfer funds to your account. Since these funds are Bitcoins, and since Bitcoin transfers are final and permanent, any money held in a Silk Road account is no longer available to the users who deposited it.
So all that money in an account is just gone, kaput. And that's resulted in freakout and Silk Road users congregating in places like Reddit:
And no one knows who is and isn't safe. The cops have been onto Silk Road since 2011, the complaint says, and in those two years undercover agents procured over 100 purchases of controlled substances from the site, meaning there could be plenty of digital dealers who, like Ulbricht, are now in big legal trouble.
Here is the full criminal complaint: