If you are a libertarian, or a drug dealer, chances are you’ve heard of Silk Road.
Silk Road was an elusive website that allowed people to sell… well, anything. The online black marketplace allowed users to browse anonymously and securely without risking the attention of government investigators.
Critics called the site the “Amazon.com of illegal drugs,” since users were able to purchase drugs like heroin, marijuana, and prescription medications. Dealers could advertise on Silk Road and then send their products to buyers through the normal mail. Silk Road took a portion of each deal using Bitcoin, an online currency that is not created or regulated by any government or central authority.
Silk Road ballooned in popularity after its creation in February 2011, ultimately facilitating over $1.2 billion in sales.
On Thursday, the FBI shut down Silk Road after trying to track its founder for over three years.
The 29-year-old San Francisco-based founder, Ross William Ulbricht, was arrested after the lengthy cyber manhunt. Ulbricht is a vocal libertarian and has openly criticized government regulation.
“Dread Pirate Roberts” was Ulbricht’s online alter-ego, which he used to brag about the cops’ inability to capture him. In June, “Roberts” tweeted, “Illegal drugs home delivered … and our cops are clueless.”
At the time of Silk Road’s shutdown, there were over 13,000 ads on the site for drugs. But authorities say the site was much more than a matchmaker for drug dealers and buyers. Silk Road was also a major marketplace for guns and computer hacking services.
Court papers also allege that Ulbricht tried to have two people killed this year.
Ulbricht paid an undercover law enforcement officer $80,000 in February to kill a former Silk Road employee. Ulbricht demanded evidence of the killing in an email to the officer. He wrote, “Ask for a video. If they can’t do that, then pictures.”
The officers told Ulbricht that the employee was tortured and then killed, and sent him pictures of a fake murder, which the internet guru took to be real.
Two months later, Ulbricht tried to hire a hit man again.
In emails between Ulbricht and a potential hit man, authorities confirmed that Ulbritcht paid $150,000 to have the killing accomplished, which he paid for using bitcoins. The killing has not been confirmed at this time.
Ulbricht is currently being held without bail in San Francisco.
His arrest undoubtably comes as a surprise. In a Youtube interview, Ulbricht said he wants to dedicate his future to having a “substantial positive impact on the future of humanity.”
On a side note, the shutdown of Silk Road has made many question the future of Bitcoin. Only time will tell if Ulbricht’s arrest kills the online currency’s value.