Silk Road drug baron convicted

Silk Road shut downA US man has been swiftly convicted of creating and operating underground website Silk Road that prosecutors say enabled drug dealers to reach customers around the world.

Ross William Ulbricht was convicted of drug and conspiracy counts.

The jury’s verdict in federal court in Manhattan came after little more than three hours of deliberations and one day after prosecutors urged jurors to follow Ulbricht’s “digital fingerprints” and discount defence claims that he was framed by others in a murky internet world where nothing is what it seems.

The US government said drug dealing made up nearly all of Silk Road’s sales during its nearly three years in business, which ended with Ulbricht’s October 2013 arrest.

Prosecutors said Ulbricht enabled more than 1 million drug deals on Silk Road and earned about $US18 million ($A23.14 million) in bitcoins by connecting dealers with customers they could never find on the street.

Sales of illegal drugs of every type were delivered through the website, representing at least $US180 million in sales, they said.

The government said the fallacy of Ulbricht’s promise of anonymity in the dark corners of the internet as a reason for customers to peddle their illegal merchandise online was exposed by numerous trial witnesses, including the first: Homeland security agent, Jared Der-Yeghiayan.

He testified that shipments originating on the website first came to his attention in June 2011 when x-rays and canine detection dogs at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport turned up envelopes from the Netherlands containing Ecstasy pills wrapped in vacuum seal and foil.

Soon, the drugs were being sent through many countries.

By late September, Der-Yeghiayan said he learned about Silk Road and began infiltrating it, taking over staff member accounts each time one was arrested or agreed to cooperate.

The agent testified that the website’s online boss went by the alias Dread Pirate Roberts and prosecutors presented numerous instant message conversations involving a person using that persona.

Defence lawyer, Joshua Dratel, insisted evidence proved Ulbricht was not Dread Pirate Roberts.

But Der-Yeghiayan said he was the agent who was communicating online with Ulbricht when he was arrested while sitting at his computer at San Francisco’s Glen Park Library.

Agents, he said, were instructed to snatch the laptop before arresting Ulbricht.

On it, he said, they discovered that Ulbricht was signed in as Dread Pirate Roberts and was immersed in a chat with Der-Yeghiayan.

During closing arguments on Tuesday, Dratel said his client quit Silk Road soon after creating it to sell anything on the internet and before the website was overrun by drug dealers.



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