On the afternoon of October 2, 2013, the FBI conducted a carefully planned operation to capture someone they believed to be one of the world’s most dangerous criminal kings. The operation did not go behind the walls of a South American jungle, a Mexican complex or a gated Miami mansion. The operation went into the science fiction section of the San Francisco Public Library. Also, unlike most global kingpins, FBI targets probably never touched a gun or drug in their lives. But he touched a computer keyboard. And with that keyboard he allegedly launched and maintained the Internet’s largest illegal market, the Silk Road.
FBI agents had been chasing their targets for months. The Baybuck kingpin rented a room in an apartment across the street from a coffee shop, where he did most of his business under the name “Dread Pirate Roberts”. He lived with two people he met through Craigslist. They knew him as “Josh”. He paid his rent in cash every month on time.
On this particular October afternoon, the FBI knew that “Josh” would likely set up shop at his local library instead of a coffee shop. Certainly, he followed his goal to the library where at about 3:15 he proceeded to boot his laptop. The agents were trained to wait for “Josh” to enter their password for the laptop and log in to their email and social media accounts. When prompted, two undercover FBI agents – one male and one female – began a brawl of a fake lover a few feet away. As the fake lovers shouted at each other, a team of agents swoop in to arrest “Josh”. An agent grabbed the unlocked laptop and handed it over to a senior IT technician. IT technology immediately changed all the administrator passwords of the computer.
Now in handcuffs, agents read her rights to the 29-year-old target. “Josh’s real name?”
According to the FBI’s charging documents, Ross established the Silk Road Marketplace in February 2011. He worked under the user “Dread Pirate Roberts”, a fictional character reference to “The Princess Bride”.
The Silk Road soon developed into the largest “dark net” illicit drug market. Like an eBay if you wanted to buy cocaine, ecstasy, weapons … or even a hit man. Users accessed the site using a technology called Tor. When someone uses Tor, their IP address (geographic location) is encrypted multiple times, then sent to dozens of locations all over the world, making them completely anonymous and inaccessible.
All transactions were paid with bitcoins. Silk Road cut 10% on every transaction.
In its short lifetime, Silk Road processed $ 9 billion in transactions. And with each of those $ 9 billion transactions, a small piece of bitcoin was set aside for Ross Ulbricht.
In August 2014, Ulbricht was charged with money laundering, traffic narcotics conspiracy and computer hacking conspiracy.
Prosecutors also alleged that Ulbricht paid $ 730,000 to murder several accomplices.
On February 4, 2015, Ulbricht was convicted on each count. On May 29, 2015, he was sentenced to two life imprisonment for 40 years in prison, without the possibility of parole. He is currently serving his sentence in a federal prison in Tuscan, Arizona. He was also ordered to pay $ 180 million in judgment.
During his time running the Silk Road, Ross Albricht managed to collect 144,000 bitcoins as payment for processing those $ 9 billion in transactions.
On the day of his arrest in October 2013, the single bitcoin cost $ 121. Therefore, Ross was valued at approximately $ 17.4 million at the time of his arrest.
On the day of his sentencing in February 2015, bitcoin cost $ 220. At that stage, Ross had 144,000 coins worth $ 31.7 million.
For his holiness, I really hope Ross has no way to check the price of bitcoin from prison.
Earlier today (Friday February 19, 2021), Bitcoin’s total market cap crossed $ 1 trillion for the first time. This happened when the price of bitcoin first crossed over $ 53,000 a few hours ago.
The price I am looking at now, $ 55,500, Ross Albricht’s 144,336 coins =
$ 8 billion
Technically, $ 8,010,648,000. And the reason why I am leaving it is because of the hours I spent writing this article, the price of bitcoin has exceeded $ 1,000, forcing me to come back and update these numbers three times. .
If Ross was out of prison and still had access to his 144,000 coins, he would be the 335th richest man in the world.
He would be $ 400 million richer than George Soros. Ralph is about $ 500 million richer than Lauren. About $ 600 million richer than Steven Spielberg.
What happened to Ross Albricht’s Bitcoin?
At least a portion of Ulbricht’s bitcoin account was seized by federal agents.
In a bizarre twist that no one saw coming, a Baltimore Secret Service agent involved in Ross’s capture was himself arrested and sentenced to six years in prison in 2017 for stealing some of Ross’s bitcoins.
In mid-2014 the United States Marshals Service held nine auctions for the value of 30,000 of Ross coins. All nine auctions were bought by venture capitalist Tim Draper. In total, Tim paid $ 19 million for 29,657 bitcoins.
At today’s prices, Tim’s price =
$ 1.65 billion
In November 2020, another 69,000 of Ross’s bitcoins by the US Department of Justice were working with the Criminal Investigation Unit of the IRS. Those 69,000 coins were actually stolen from Ross in 2012 and 2013 by a hacker. As of this writing, the government has not auctioned this ban of coins whose market value is =
$ 3.83 billion
I cannot track what happened to the approximately 45,000 remaining coins outside the two verandas above. Those 2.5 billion dollar coins are likely either sitting in purses that have not yet been found or have been hacked and sold. Or perhaps they were sold by the government. It was difficult to track precisely how many of the 144,336 coins were seized and sold by American marshals.
I’m not sure what to feel about Ross Ulbricht. Many believe they were implicated or allegations were greatly exaggerated. If he actually pays the casualties while operating the Silk Road, he is probably serving a fair sentence. If this did not happen and he was somehow a protector to another nefarious person or group of individuals, it is a great betrayal of justice.
Ross’s parents spent years quietly lobbying their son to be forgiven by Donald Trump. Those efforts ultimately did not succeed.
Can you think of what Ross should feel today? He moved out of his apartment in one day with total assets of $ 17 million and a thriving online business. Today he is a 36-year-old federal prisoner who may technically still be a multi-billionaire. And how torturing it must be to know that he probably fled to South America before that fateful day in October 2013. What would his life be today with a slightly different roll of the dice.