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PILLAGING PIRATES
Accused Silk Road mastermind to be sent to New York for trial
by Staff Writers
San Francisco (AFP) Oct 09, 2013


A US judge on Wednesday ordered the accused mastermind of the nefarious online black market Silk Road sent to New York to stand trial.

Ross William Ulbricht, speaking through a defense attorney, put off seeking bail and agreed to be taken back to the city where federal criminal charges against him were filed.

However, he denies being the infamous "Dread Pirate Roberts" who ran the underground website that openly hawked illegal drugs, forged documents, hacker tools and even the services of hitmen.

"Any aliases we affirmatively deny," said defense attorney Brandon LeBlanc, who told reporters after the hearing that Ulbricht "is well."

Federal marshals will take Ulbricht to New York City, where he will have a new defense attorney and be eligible to request release on bail pending trial.

US prosecutors have gone on record in court saying there are no conditions under which they believe it would be safe to free Ulbricht on bail.

Ulbricht appeared unshaven but alert, saying nothing during the brief proceedings before Magistrate Joseph Spero.

The 29-year-old was arrested last week by US authorities who accuse him of owning and operating Silk Road.

Ulbricht is also accused of trying to elminate perceived threats to his business by hiring hitmen.

"We deny all charges," LeBlanc said after a previous hearing before Spero.

Federal agents shut down the website, which used a privacy-protecting Tor network and Bitcoin digital currency to shield the identities of buyers and sellers around the world.

Ulbricht was using a laptop in a San Francisco library when he was arrested on Oct. 1 and investigators were expected to scour the machine for evidence he is indeed "Dread Pirate Roberts."

The online moniker appeared to be taken from a character in the film "The Princess Bride."

Establishing Ulbricht as the online figure referred to by investigators as "DPR" will be necessary in order for the criminal case against him to proceed.

From about January 2011, Ulbricht allegedly ran the marketplace that hawked heroin, cocaine, LSD and methamphetamine, as well as hacker tools such as software for stealing passwords or logging keystrokes on people's machines, according to court documents.

"The Silk Road website has served as a sprawling black market bazaar where illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services have been regularly bought and sold by the site's users," FBI Special Agent Christopher Tarbell said in a criminal complaint filed in federal court.

The investigation was handled out of New York.

Prosecutors said they seized approximately $3.6 million worth of Bitcoins in the largest ever seizure of the digital currency.

"Silk Road has emerged as the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet today," the criminal complaint contended.

"The site has sought to make conducting illegal transactions as easy and frictionless as shopping online at mainstream e-commerce websites."

Prosecutors maintained that Silk Road has been used by thousands of drug dealers to distribute hundreds of kilograms of illegal wares to more than 100,000 buyers and to launder hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten profits.

Silk Road took in at least $80 million in commissions on more than $1.2 billion worth of transactions, the criminal complaint estimated.

As of July, Silk Road had just shy of a million registered users, according to investigators.

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