This week could be the first time the world comes face to face with Dread Pirate Roberts, the pseudonym of the person behind the “black market bazaar” Silk Road.
30-year-old Ross Ulbricht stands accused of being Roberts, a charge he denies. Roberts has a large price on his head: if found guilty of managing a “continuing criminal enterprise,” Ulbricht will be behind bars for at least a mandatory 20 years. Should he avoid that charge and instead be proven guilty of another, he could get a shorter sentence. The other charges he faces include selling narcotics over the internet and narcotics trafficking.
Silk Road was an online market place where users could buy and sell illegal goods using encrypted browser Tor. The marketplace existed because it offered anonymity and when that was threatened, prosecutors allege, Ulbricht tried to arrange for those making the threats to be murdered by hit men. Ulbricht denies this too.
The prosecution’s case in built around evidence obtained through search warrants, including analysis of his writing style, which they will claim matches that of Dread Pirate Roberts. Other evidence includes information gathered by undercover FBI agents posing as users and buying drugs on the site.
Silk Road was shut down last year.