The Story of Ross Ulbricht and the Silk Road

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1 year ago

When we first learn about Bitcoin we also encounter the dark side of cryptocurrencies. The use of Crypto for illegal activities.

The first monetary use of Bitcoin as a medium of exchange was the 10,000 BTC paid for a pizza by early Bitcoin developer Laszlo Hanyecz.

Those in Bitcoin very early (2009-2012) were the real visionaries.

A point was made that Bitcoin could be used as cash and someone had to make the start. Bitcoin was not just a game anymore, it had value and one that was growing exponentially.

Silk Road was created in 2011 by Ross Ulbricht (a.k.a. Dread Pirate Rogers, or DPR) and in just a few months it became very popular among online drug sellers and users. It was a platform mostly for trading illegal drugs with the use of this new digital currency, "Bitcoin".

The Silk Road digital bazaar, on its peak it was serving thousands of drug dealers and close to one million customers. All users of Silk Road were dealing with Bitcoin as a means of exchange.

Bitcoin's price was greatly affected as it found a use case and a user base for those early days. Illegal markets or not, Bitcoin was proven to be working as a digital currency.

Dread Pirate Roberts - "altoid"


Silk Road, was founded in 2011 by Ross Ulbricht. It was one of the first darknet marketplaces, a black market that was mostly used for drug sales.

Ulbricht was also the admin of the Silk Road and used the moniker: "Dread Pirate Roberts". He was also referred to as "DPR".

Drug vendors started listing their products on the darknet website that could only be accessed via the Tor network.

Silk Road brought Bitcoin into mainstream news in 2011 (Source1) a few months after the online marketplace was launched (January 2011).

The launch was informally announced with this message by user: altoid on

I came across this website called Silk Road.  It's a Tor hidden service that claims to allow you to buy and sell anything online anonymously.  I'm thinking of buying off it, but wanted to see if anyone here had heard of it and could recommend it.

I found it through, which, if you have a tor browser, directs you to the real site at http://tydgccykixpbu6uz.onion.

Let me know what you think...

- Source

The same username was also registered on the bitcoin forum (bitcointalk user: altoid).

The bitcointalk user altoid was registered on January 29th, 2011, and was posting mostly about technical specs on mining and setting up bitcoin software, and later it was all about price fluctuations.

H0wever the final post of altoid helped the investigators connect the dots.

On October 11th, 2011, user altoid submitted this post to the bitcointalk forum:


IT pro needed for venture backed bitcoin startup - October 11, 2011, 08:06:22 PM

Hello, sorry if there is another thread for this kind of post, but I couldn't find one.  I'm looking for the best and brightest IT pro in the bitcoin community to be the lead developer in a venture backed bitcoin startup company.  The ideal candidate would have at least several years of web application development experience, having built applications from the ground up.  A solid understanding of oop and software architecture is a must.  Experience in a start-up environment is a plus, or just being super hard working, self-motivated, and creative.

Compensation can be in the form of equity or a salary, or somewhere in-between.

If interested, please send your answers to the following questions to rossulbricht at gmail dot com

1) What are your qualifications for this position?
2) What interests you about bitcoin?

From there, we can talk about things like compensation and references and I can answer your questions as well.  Thanks in advance to any interested parties.  If anyone knows another good place to recruit, I am all ears.

As explained above, the username "altoid" was the one that made the first online reference to Silk Road on a drug-related forum.

The feds were certainly going to make a connection and investigate this further. A mistake was made that gave to feds clues on the identity of Dread Pirate Roberts.

The Case Against Ross Ulbricht

Image from:

The case against Ulbricht, except accusing him of facilitating illegal drug trafficking, also contained an accusation of attempted murder. These charges were dropped in 2018, however, Ulbricht was eventually a scapegoat in the US war against drugs, as it was all about setting a strict precedent on future online markets.

He was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to life imprisonment twice with an extra forty years and without the possibility for parole.

The justice system showed no leniency and decided a draconian sentence on Ulbricht's case for a first-time offender with non-violent charges. The attempted murder charge was dropped later but it was also significant in the way it appeared in the court proceedings.

Murder-for-Hire Charges

Ross Ulbricht in 2013 was blackmailed by a user of Silk Road and threatened he would expose the real identities of thousands of Silk Road users.

The hitmen were fake and it was all an elaborate scam, set up to extract thousands of Bitcoins from Ulbricht.


Ross in total was scammed for more than 7,000 BTC by the fake blackmailer.

Barely Sociable on Youtube is providing the conversations between Ulbricht and contacts from the dark web as Silk Road vendors (RealLucyDrop) and the hitmen negotiator (RedandWhite). I recommend watching the video if you are up for suspense:

Ross Ulbricht was running an illegal drug marketplace and while no murder was committed, he was still intending to proceed with the murder of those that blackmailed and scammed Ulbricht. It is reasonable to think he expected Silk Road to keep growing into a digital darknet empire.

For some, Ross Ulbricht is the villain, but to others, he was an entrepreneur. There is often a thin line that when crossed the consequences can be life-changing.

The double life sentence without parole means that Ulbricht will probably spend many more decades in prison. It is a harsh punishment for what the indictment contains and the final decision was punitive instead of a corrective one.

Ross Ulbricht doesn't seem to be a monster and it is obvious he was threatened and blackmailed before deciding to proceed as he did. Furthermore, the murder charges have been dropped since no attempt on a real person was ever made.

Moreover, the unequal treatment of Ross Ulbricht is obvious when compared to sentences given to users and admins of Silk Road as well as follow-up marketplaces created after the crackdown of Silk Road.

Source: FreeRoss


Until the moment Silk Road was seized by the FBI in October 2013, it facilitated sales of $1,2 billion in drugs and other illegal sales of goods. More than one billion dollars in the form of cryptocurrency were exchanged in this online black market.

Bitcoin gained notoriety but also reached mainstream publicity. The name of Bitcoin appeared on many news pages during Silk Road's existence and after the arrest of Ulbricht, Bitcoin was condemned by the media as the currency criminals use.

The effect Silk Road had on Bitcoin brought conflicting results:

  • Silk Road proven Bitcoin was working as P2P electronic cash and the network was increasing rapidly in user base.

  • Silk road also gave notoriety to Bitcoin together with a reason for governments and media to go against it and stall any regulations or acceptance for many years.

A lot of misinformation and propaganda against what the media perceived as "anonymous currency" helped Bitcoin gain even more publicity and users.

No negative publicity exists. Bitcoin became famous in 2013 right after the Silk Road crackdown as major tech corporations took interest in it and started accepting it. Investors kept flocking in Bitcoin and a whole new industry was created.

The era of cryptocurrencies begun and a modern, censorship-resistant financial system started gaining popularity.

An industry that eight years later, reached 2.5 trillion dollars in total market cap.

Source of Image: Twitter


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Avatar for Pantera
1 year ago


I think that a major factor was that his crimes facilitated the crimes of others, and so he was punished harshly for that. The narrative that some crypto supporters have that he should be freed, I feel is bad for crypto in general as it helps cement in that connection between crime and crypto.

They even had him speaking live from prison in the Bitcoin 2021 conference in Miami. I can't see mainstream adoption of crypto taking off in any meaningful way when convicted criminals who are still in jail are headline names at conferences.

$ 0.00
1 year ago

"Ross Ulbricht was running an illegal drug marketplace and while no murder was committed, he was still intending to proceed with the murder..."

Not verified. We don't know what he intended. What we know is that he was not the only one with access to the Dread Pirate Roberts handle. It was likely not even Ross that wrote those "go ahead" messages. And we know two corrupt Feds (now in prison) were involved in the case. Ross did not put out hits on anyone. At least, that seems pretty clear to me. Look at his character and why he started the whole thing. It simply would not make sense.

$ 500.00
1 year ago

I thought about it again and I will look into this possibility because some things don't add up. This is about a part of the case that has been dropped and while I read the conversation at least two times, I should have done it more critically.

About the rest comments made, at a point, I felt you were trolling but probably should have reacted differently nonetheless. Quite often I will make mistakes but try to fix them. I blocked and unblocked you twice, but just for a couple of hours the second time. I didn't know comments would not be shown when blocked, found about it later, and I didn't want a comment having a $500 tip not shown. It should be there on the top, even if I disagreed.

I will do more research on the topic you raised, as your argument has grounds, it just takes some time to think about it and find about some details that were presented in a weird way.

I found this course of action to be logical for someone running a drug market, I don't justify it, but there is a very strange line followed in this conversation with the supposed Hell's Angel hitman. For the rest, I regret the mistake I made to respond as I did and I apologize.

$ 0.00
1 year ago

It seems that many disagree with your comment, however, I don't downvote comments stating an opinion. You are entitled to one no matter how many logical fallacies it may contain.

$ 0.00
1 year ago

The part about the agents and the testimony regarding multiple people with access to Ross's handle is not opinion, but commonly known and established fact. I have no idea why you would even consider downvoting me for simply adding to the conversation.

I understand it is your view that many disagree with me. But why would that merit a downvote? I find this to be petty and strange.

$ 0.50
1 year ago

I didn't downvote, that is what I said. Others downvoted your comment because they disagreed. I said that I don't downvote comments stating an opinion but I respect it, no matter if I know it is a wrong one. However I don't understand why you didn't read the comment I made and supposed that I downvoted you.

Anyway, you got your $500 for this false opinion and I got $100 for writing what the real story is.

$ 0.00
1 year ago

"I have no idea why you would even consider downvoting me for simply adding to the conversation."

That is what I said. I did not suppose you had downvoted me.

I don't really care how many downvoted me, and simply wonder where my "logical fallacy" <--- your words, is, specifically. I stated some established facts, and some opinion. Where's the error in logical thinking, exactly?

$ 0.00
1 year ago

Bro, I wrote everything in my post above. You want me to write this again? You are writing yourself. Do you enjoy getting into debates in your posts after all the work you have done? What you are doing right now is wrong and you seriously make me consider that I am wasting my time with you.

You got your $500 by being a good boy. Now it's time to stop.

$ 0.00
1 year ago

Though i never heard of the silk road or the guy up there, but I've learnt something new today from your article. Sometimes something happens for us to gain acceptance or popularity, maybe if that didn't happen, maybe it would have up till now been the problem of bitcoin gaining acceptance. There is a always a course for a greatness.

$ 0.02
1 year ago

Congratulations, very nicely written and explained. I believe that you need a lot of time to do something like this.

$ 0.00
1 year ago

Thank you, I can learn through your article, it's really very useful

$ 0.00
1 year ago