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Ross Ulbricht, 31, who has been sentenced to life in prison image

Ross Ulbricht, 31, who has been sentenced to life in prison.

The American convicted of masterminding the criminal website Silk Road has been sentenced in court to life in prison over the online enterprise that sold $US200 million ($261 million) in drugs to customers worldwide.

It was the maximum possible punishment for Ross Ulbricht, who was convicted in February by a jury on seven counts of narcotics trafficking, criminal enterprise, computer hacking and money laundering.

The 31-year-old with a graduate degree displayed no emotion on Friday as he stood in dark prison scrubs to hear his fate read by US Federal Judge Katherine Forrest, as his devoted parents sat in the packed gallery.

Lyn Ulbricht, mother of Ross Ulbricht, speaks to journalists outside court image
Lyn Ulbricht, mother of Ross Ulbricht, speaks to journalists outside court. Photo: ReutersUlbricht, who ran Silk Road under the alias “Dread Pirate Roberts” and was alleged to have commissioned five murders at a cost of $US650,000 ($850,000) but never charged for them, was sentenced to two life sentences for narcotics distribution and criminal enterprise.
AdvertisementHe also received the maximum sentence of five, 15 and 20 years for hacking, trafficking in false documents and money laundering convictions.

In the gallery, his mother put her head in her hand.
Silk Road website shows thumbnails for products allegedly available through the site.image

This frame grab from the Silk Road website shows thumbnails for products allegedly available through the site.

It was a stunning fall from privilege for Ulbricht, who the government said amassed $US13 million ($17 million) in commissions by making the purchase of heroin, cocaine and crystal meth as easy as shopping online at eBay or Amazon.

Prosecutors said the narcotics-trafficking enterprise resulted in at least six drug-related deaths.

Crimes were ‘unprecedented’

“You should serve your life in prison,” Forrest told Ulbricht, saying there was no parole in the US federal system.

“What you did was unprecedented,” she said. “You have to pay the consequences of this.”

Forrest said the court also sought the forfeiture of more than $US183.9 million ($240 million) in Silk Road drug profits.

The parents of a 25-year-old Boston man and a 16-year-old Australian schoolboy, who both died after ingesting drugs obtained from Silk Road, spoke of their devastating loss.

“I strongly believe my son would be here today if Ross Ulbricht had never created Silk Road,” said one of the parents, identified only as Richard.

But Ulbricht made little mention of their anguish, sniffing and sobbing his way through a self-pitying statement before the court.

He told Forrest that he wanted to “tell you about myself from my perspective”, and denied that he was greedy and vain.

He also promised that he now respected the law and would never break it again if released.

“I’m not a self-centered, sociopathic person… I just made some very serious mistakes.”

His four-week trial had been considered a landmark case in the murky world of online crime and government surveillance.

Given the significant public interest in the case, Forrest said his sentence had to serve as a deterrent to anyone looking to step into his shoes, and must reflect the severity of his crimes and protect society.

Right to appeal

The defence had requested the mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years and Ulbricht has the right to appeal.

The sentence was the maximum possible under US federal law on each count – tougher even more than the lengthy sentence sought by government prosecutors.

Forrest read from chilling online messages and journal entries that she said showed Ulbricht had displayed “arrogance”, knew exactly what he was doing and had an escape plan to flee the country.

“I’m running a goddamn multimillion-dollar criminal enterprise,” she read out.

His own writings proved that he was “callous as to the consequences and the harm and suffering it may cause others”, she said.

The government said Silk Road conducted 50,000 sales of heroin, 80,000 sales of cocaine and 30,000 of methamphetamine – highly addictive and dangerous drugs.

Forrest said Ulbricht was no better than a common drug dealer and blind to the collateral damage to society caused by expanding the drugs market.

“I don’t know you feel a lot of remorse for the people you hurt. I don’t know you know you hurt a lot of people.”

She said she found “profoundly moving” the nearly 100 letters written from family and friends testifying to a kind, intelligent and loved friend, saying that he was a “very complex” person.

Ulbricht created the Silk Road in January 2011, and owned and operated the underground site until it was shut down by the FBI in October 2013, when he was arrested in a San Francisco library.

The government called it “the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the internet” used by vendors in more than 10 countries in North America and Europe.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Ulbricht commissioned five murders at a cost of $US650,000 ($850,000). He was accused of these murders by law-enforcement but was never charged for them.




An alleged prostitute who police say stole credit card details from clients and bought more than $100,000 of goods over the internet has been charged with identity theft and fraud.

Karl Perry of the WA Police Major Fraud Squad said the 35-year-old woman also accessed identity documents of a female associate, assumed that woman’s identity, made online applications for credit cards in her name, then racked up a $13,000 credit card debt.

Police executed search warrants at the woman’s Rockingham house and recovered a large amount of the property bought with the cards.

She was arrested on June 25.

Senior Constable Perry said members of the public, internet sales companies and financial institutions were all victims of the alleged fraud.

The woman has been charged with 39 fraud offences and will appear in Rockingham Magistrates Court on July 10.


Police have charged a man over a suitcase allegedly stuffed with $1 million in cash after it being left in a Sydney cafe this week.

The man, a 49-year-old Chinese national from Hong Kong, was in Concord Hospital suffering from an undisclosed illness after he was detained by police on Tuesday afternoon.

He allegedly carried the black, unlocked suitcase, filled with Australian banknotes reportedly amounting to about $1 million, into Caffe Marco in Burwood at 8am on Tuesday.

He allegedly walked out of the outlet only a few minutes later.

Ashfield police saw him in Summer Hill some hours later and took him to Burwood police station, where he allegedly assaulted three officers.

The officers suffered minor injuries, police said.

The man was released by the hospital yesterday and charged with goods in custody, dealing with the proceeds of crime over $100,000, dealing with property suspected to be the proceeds of crime and assaulting police.

He was refused bail and will appear at Burwood Local Court today.

Earlier, police alleged the money was linked to  criminal activities, although they could not say which one, Inspector David Cottee of the Burwood Local Area Command said.

The cash was banked in a police bank account at one of the big four banks immediately after it was found.

“There’s no piles of cash sitting around in the police station,” Inspector Cottee said.

“It went straight to the bank and the bank provided us with a money-counting machine and a teller and kept it open until they were able to count and verify it.”

Two men, arrested by police at Central Station in April with $2 million in cash in two suitcases, pleaded guilty to dealing with property suspected to be the proceeds of crime.

Li Wang, 26, and Yu Xiang, 25, will be sentenced next month.

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