THE UNITED STATES federal bureau of investigation (FBI) has arrested the suspected operator of the infamous internet black market called the Silk Road.
Ross William Ulbricht, 29, apparently called himself Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR) and set up the Silk Road as a surreptitious online meeting place for the buyers and sellers of illegal drugs, among other things.
According to court documents, Ulbricht is accused of being the mastermind of the website that the FBI described as "an online international marketplace for people to buy and sell controlled substances, false identifications and other contraband over the internet".
Ulbricht allegedly monetised his role by taking small commissions from all Bitcoin payments made through the TOR based hidden website. He is also accused of sending messages to members and supplying information about problems with the system.
A couple of other people allegedly were involved, and Ulbricht apparently paid them salaries.
According to investigators more than $1bn in transactions have been brokered through the Silk Road website and Ulbricht is said to have run it from January 2011 until September 2013.
Ulbricht is also accused of trying to hire a hitman to take out someone who was threatening to expose him and Silk Road users.
The court document (PDF) put up by the Electronic Frontier Foundation details a conversation between the suspect and an agent during which they haggled over the price of a murder for hire and settled on $150,000.
"Don't want to be a pain here, but the price seems high. Not long ago, I had a clean hit done for 80k. Are the prices you quoted the best you can do?," Ulbricht allegedly wrote. "I would like this done asap as he is talking about releasing the info on Monday."
The victim was supposed to be a character called Friendly Chemist who wanted $500k in hush money. The authorities found no evidence of a homicide resulting from the incident.
There were a couple of mistakes that gave Ulbricht away, according to the FBI, and these included his use of his personal Gmail email address to solicit help for processing Bitcoin payments. Unfortunately for him, he had used the associated online username Altoid to post links to his new website called The Silk Road.
In another incident he logged onto the Silk Road servers from an internet cafe without using the TOR network. µ
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