Silk Road mastermind Ross Ulbricht sentenced to life in prison


The Silk Road taken, from drug kingpin to the penitentiary.

NEW YORK—Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison Friday, following a jury’s finding in February that the 31-year-old was the mastermind behind the Silk Road, once the Internet’s largest online drug marketplace.

Operating online as “Dread Pirate Roberts,” Ulbricht worked with a small staff to control everything sold on the site. He was arrested in October 2013, and the government made its case against him during a three-week trial here earlier this year.

Ulbricht pleaded for leniency during the hearing. “I wish I could go back and convince myself to take a different path,” he said.

He also said: “If given the chance, I would never break the law again.”

US District Judge Katherine Forrest wasn’t buying it. “Silk Road’s creation showed that you thought you were better than the law,” she said.

Ulbricht was found guilty on seven counts including a so-called “drug kingpin” charge that carries a 20-year minimum sentence. In addition to drug charges, he was convicted of money laundering along with facilitating the sale of fake IDs and computer hacking tools.

During trial, Ulbricht’s lawyer Joshua Dratel suggested someone else, such as Mt. Gox owner Mark Karpeles, was the “real” DPR and that Ulbricht was simply the “fall guy.” The Ulbricht family has maintained his innocence, and his mother has said they would appeal the guilty verdict.

Before Friday’s hearing, Ulbricht also begged the judge in a legal memo to “please leave me my old age.” The government asked for a sentence “substantially above the mandatory minimum” of 20 years.

Prosecutors’ allegations that Ulbricht tried to arrange several murders-for-hire also came up at trial, but he was not charged for them in this case. Instead, one of those six accusations is pending in Maryland.