Federal Grand Jury Indicts Operator of Silk Road Website

     (CN) - A four-count criminal indictment against the owner-operator of the Silk Road website, whose users bought and sold illegal drugs with Bitcoins, was returned Tuesday by a federal grand jury. It also claims he solicited a murder for hire.
     Ross William Ulbricht aka Dread Pirate Roberts created and ran Silk Road from January 2011 until it was shut down by law enforcement in October 2013, prosecutors said.
     "During that time, Silk Road emerged as the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet," count one of the indictment states, for "narcotics trafficking conspiracy."
     It continues: "The website was used by several thousand drug dealers and other unlawful vendors to distribute hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services to well over a hundred thousand buyers worldwide, and to launder hundreds of millions of dollars deriving from these unlawful transactions."
     The other counts are that Ulbricht ran a continuing criminal enterprise, conspired to launder money and conspired to hack computers.
     The murder for hire allegation comes under the "Overt Acts" section of the 12-page indictment in Manhattan Federal Court. Ulbricht is not charged with murder.
     The Overt Acts section states in part: "On or about March 29, 2013, Ross William Ulbricht ... in connection with operating the Silk Road website, solicited a Silk Road user to execute a murder-for-hire of another Silk Road user, who was threatening to release the identities of thousands of users of the site."
     Ulbricht designed the website to "include a Bitcoin-based payment system," to conceal the identities and locations of Silk Road's users, according to the indictment.
     Through Silk Road's savvy process, the indictment states, Ulbricht raked in commissions, from sales of narcotics, computer hacking software and other goods, worth tens of millions of dollars.
     Ulbricht was previously indicted in Maryland on the murder-for-hire allegations. He is in federal custody in Brooklyn.
     Count three, computer hacking, accuses him of providing a platform "for the purchase and sale of malicious software designed for computer hacking, such as password stealers, keyloggers, and remote access tools. While in operation, the Silk Road website regularly offered hundreds of listings for such products."
     Prosecutors seek forfeiture of money and equipment, among other things.
     Ulbricht was the subject of a long article in the Jan. 31 New York Times, which contained allegations similar to those in the indictment.