It was like one of those scenes we have have witnessed on television or in the movies. The Federal Investigators are looking for their “criminal mastermind”. They walk into a small branch of the San Framncisco public library and, there, chatting online, is their target. The half-dozen agents are directed to him by a cooperating witness and they close in.
He was known as “Dread Pirate Roberts”. In reality, he was 29-year-old-Ross William Ulbricht (hereinafter, the “Defendant”). He was sitting in front of his laptop last Tuesday, authorities said, talking about the vast black market bazaar that is believed to have brokered more than $1 billion in transactions for illegal drugs and services.
The Defendant was charged in the federal courts of both New York and Maryland. He stands accused of of making millions of dollars operating the secret Silk Road website and of a failed murder-for-hire scheme, all while living anonymously with two roommates whom he paid $1,000 to rent a room in a modest neighborhood. The Silk Road website, his alleged brain-child, was allegedly a place where users could browse anonymously through nearly 13,000 listings under categories like ”Cannabis,” ”Psychedelics” and ”Stimulants.”
Federal authorities shut down the website…and, of course, the Defendant. The charges in New York apparently focus on the Defendant’s alleged drug-related business on the web. In Maryland, the charges deal with allegedly ordering first the torture, and then the murder, of an employee from an undercover agent whom he allegedly feared would expose his secret identity as “Dread Pirate. Court records say he wired $80,000 after he was shown staged photos of the employee’s faked torture.
The two-year investigation which led to the Defendant’s arrest had relied on the careful following of a small trail of computer crumbs they say the Defendant had carelessly left for the FBI to find, according to court documents. The authorities first became aware of him in 2011 when they realized that he operated under another alias, that of ”altoid,” someone who they say was marketing Silk Road on other drug-related websites the FBI was watching. Then came the slow monitoring of the Defendant’s email and picking up on some slipups, including using his real name to ask a programmers’ website a highly technical question about connecting to secret sites like Silk Road.
Finally, according to the court papers, was the Defendant’s ordering of fake identification documents from a Silk Road vendor from Canada. One of the nine documents was a California driver’s license with the Defendant’s photograph, birthdate but a different name. The package was intercepted at the border during a routine U.S. Customs search.
On July 26, Homeland Security investigators visited the Defendant at his San Francisco residence. He ”generally refused to answer questions,” the agents said. The agents did not arrest him then, but then came to the library as described above. There he was…allegedly inculpating himself.
The Defendant faces the prospect of life in prison if convicted of all the charges.
Attorney Sam’s Take On Federal Criminal Investigations, Search And Seizure
“So, Sam, now that we have waited beyond ‘yesterday’, what does this have to do with the search and seizure topic you were going to follow up on?”
Actually, quite a bit.
“But it is a totally different type of case and approach.”
That is correct. More evidence that these laws are not so simple. They effect various types of criminal matters…and different investigative approaches. Both matters, however, are federal criminal matters.
“Well, who can keep up with all these nuances?”
Your friendly neighborhood experienced criminal defense attorney, that’s who. After all, it is his or her job to do so. That’s why I keep telling you that, if you are being investigated or charged, you need one.
As for what this Boston Criminal Lawyer can tell you about these two cases, we really will get to that tomorrow.
To read the original story upon this blog is based, please go to http://www.boston.com/business/technology/2013/10/03/calif-man-charged-black-market-drug-scheme/1oZvneSvD7YK5xiGP4poJP/singlepage.html