Ross Ulbricht, founder of the online narcotics empire Silk Road and Westlake High School alum, was found guilty on seven charges, including drug and money-laundering conspiracies and a continuing criminal enterprise statute normally reserved for mob and drug cartel leaders. It took a Manhattan jury only a few hours to reach its verdict.
The Austin native, who graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas is facing a minimum of 30 years in prison and could receive a life sentence after the jury convicted him of being the Dread Pirate Roberts, the mastermind of Silk Road, a now-defunct site that allowed users to buy and sell drugs ranging from weed to heroin and everything in between. Ulbricht was arrested in October 2013 in the science fiction section of a San Francisco library.
The continuing criminal enterprise charge is often referred to as “The Kingpin Statute” and has been used again Chicago gangster Larry Hoover and Oakland-based ’80s drug lord Felix “The Cat” Mitchell. It carries a minimum 20-year sentence and a maximum of life imprisonment.
Ulbricht’s lead attorney, Joshua Dratel, argued that although Ulbricht was the creator of the Silk Road under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts, he had long passed the site on to others who were now attempting to frame him.
According to Wired, the state’s evidence against the 30-year-old was overwhelming. For one, he was arrested while on his laptop, logged in to the site’s “mastermind” account. In addition, his laptop contained a journal, logbook and private chat logs that all indicated he was running Silk Road, and a former FBI agent had traced $13.4 million in Bitcoins from the site’s Iceland- and Pennsylvania-based servers to the Bitcoin wallet on Ulbricht’s laptop.
Dratel told reporters outside the courthouse that he plans to appeal the verdict. “What you saw in terms of length of deliberations is demonstrative of [what happens] when the defense is precluded and limited and circumscribed in the way that it was,” he said.