For the past two-plus years, the Silk Road has been the go-to place for tech-savvy drug users -- and entrepreneurial drug sellers -- looking for a safe and anonymous way to get their fix. Weed, cocaine, LSD, heroin, you name it -- it could be at your door in a matter of days.
Today, the whole operation came tumbling down. The FBI seized the Silk Road website and $3.6 million in Bitcoin, a small percentage of the site's reported $1.2 billion in sales but still the second largest Bitcoin seizure ever. They also arrested and unmasked "Dread Pirate Roberts," the company's formerly mysterious founder.
His name is Ross William Ulbricht, and he's a 29-year-old "investment advisor and entrepreneur" based in Austin, according to his LinkedIn profile, where he also hints at his libertarian ideology and outsize ambition:
Now, my goals have shifted. I want to use economic theory as a means to abolish the use of coercion and agression amongst mankind. Just as slavery has been abolished most everywhere, I believe violence, coercion and all forms of force by one person over another can come to an end. The most widespread and systemic use of force is amongst institutions and governments, so this is my current point of effort. The best way to change a government is to change the minds of the governed, however. To that end, I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force.
Ulbricht -- or rather Dread Pirate Roberts -- struck the same tone in a recent interview with Forbes.
"We can't stay silent forever. We have an important message, and the time is ripe for the world to hear it," he said. "What we're doing isn't about scoring drugs or 'sticking it to the man.' It's about standing up for our rights as human beings and refusing to submit when we've done no wrong."
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The feds, however, say that Ulbricht fell far short of his stated ideals. Aside from running what the FBI calls "the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet," he once allegedly attempted to hire a hit man to kill a Silk Road user who was threatening to release the identities of thousands of other users.
In the coming days, expect a good deal more reporting to be done on Ulbricht's background. For now, it's worth noting that he is a proud UT-Dallas alum. His name is still on UTD NanoTech Institute's list of former students, and the registrar's office confirms that he graduated in 2006 with a bachelor's in physics.
Here's the criminal complaint filed against Ulbricht, via Gizmodo: