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Hit-Men Bombshells End Feds’ Silk Road Case

MANHATTAN (CN) - Prosecutors spent the last two days of their case against Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht entering evidence suggesting that his alleged online alter ego Dread Pirate Roberts hired hit men to murder no fewer than four people in Canada.

The parties agree that Canadian authorities found no trace of homicides matching the dates and information in the government's evidence, and those sensational allegations are not on trial in New York.

While he has been charged with murder-for-hire in Baltimore, the 30-year-old Ulbricht faces seven unrelated charges here related to conspiring to hawk narcotics, launder money and disseminate false documents through his underground market on the Deepnet.

As prosecutors wrapped up the New York case wrapped on Monday, however, they hammered home the alleged hit jobs in a preemptive strike on the defense case, which began with Ulbricht's former friends vouching for his lifelong "peaceful and nonviolent" character.

The prosecution's evidence that Ulbricht had been ready to kill to protect his creation, Silk Road, comes mostly from two files found on his laptop.

One appears to be a business journal, which coldly documents the alleged deeds.

An entry shows the Dread Pirate Roberts, known by his initials DPR, recounting how he "commissioned hit on a blackmailer with [the Hells Angels]" on March 29, 2013.

Days later, DPR "got word that blackmailer was executed," a follow-up entry on April 1 reported.

The dates and details match up with a 33-page selection of private and public messages between DPR and the alleged "blackmailer," a user named FriendlyChemist who threatened to expose the underground website's top vendors and clientele.

FriendlyChemist's alleged associate, "RealLucyDrop" - who supposedly has an impersonator named "LucyDrop" - tried unsuccessfully in the messages to prevent bloodshed.

The hit man identifies himself as a leader of a Canadian drug gang linked to the Hell's Angels, and goes by the handle "redandwhite."

As proceedings ended on Friday, DPR commissioned "redandwhite" to put a hit out on FriendlyChemist.

On Monday, jurors saw the two haggling over the prices of "clean" versus "non-clean" hits, which vary in the traces left behind.

Although DPR bargained the price down $150,000 U.S. dollars for a clean hit, the parties said that they would process the transaction in bitcoins, the cryptographic online currency.

Confirming that this deal was completed, FBI contractor Brian Shaw testified that the bitcoin address shown in their message matched the one on "blockchain," an online repository of transactions.

Redandwhite came back to report on April 1 that DPR's "problem has been taken care of," and that FriendlyChemist "won't be blackmailing anyone again. Ever," the correspondence shows.

"Excellent work," DPR replied a day later.

More hits allegedly followed after redandwhite said that FriendlyChemist worked with a Brit named Andrew Lawsry, who went by the handles "tony76" and "nipplesuckcanuck."

That name and those handles also appeared in the journal entry found in Ulbricht's laptop, the FBI's Shaw testified.

Redandwhite said that his "hitters" found out that Lawsry had conned Silk Road with four other people who caught wind of the recent hit on FriendlyChemist and planned to leave the province.

The parties allegedly bargained a $500,000 price in bitcoins, which the FBI also found on the blockchain, and agreed to a "50/50" split of whatever money they found on them, the evidence showed.

Redandwhite also said he would send a picture of the completed hit in return for instructions on how to scrub photos of identifying GPS metadata.

On April 15, 2013, redandwhite said, "That problem has been dealt with," with details following on later dates.

DPR recounted the alleged murders-for-hire with a Silk Road administrator named "cimon," in an encrypted web chat on April 23, 2013, the final piece of evidence submitted by the prosecution.

On cross-examination, Ulbricht lawyer Joshua Dratel highlighted the uncertainty of the online world by asking Shaw whether he could verify that any of the users that DPR chatted with were not the same person.

"No, not that I can tell," Shaw acknowledged.

Dratel has long contended that his client had been "set up" by the "real" DPR, who allegedly planted reams of incrimiminating evidence on Ulbricht's laptop and in his home.

The government has also shown evidence of DPR crafting this very alibi in web chats with Silk Road users.

Indeed, Assistant U.S. Timothy Howard ended the government's case with a chat in which DPR speaks of living a "modest life" while hiding his crimes from his friends and loved ones.

"I'm clever, so I can bs when I need to," DPR said, but he added that he "hate[d]" having to lie to his friends about his double-life.

DPR wrote that he wanted to "scream at them" that he is "running a goddamn multimillion dollar criminal enterprise," the chat showed.

The defense case began with three of those friends uniformly attesting to Ulbricht's "peaceful and nonviolent" character.

Karen Arnold, a 72-year-old therapist and social worker, said she was "almost like a relative" of the Ulbricht family and lived near them in Austin, Texas.

"He's compassionate, gentle," Arnold said of Ulbricht. "He always has been."

Thomas Haney, a 31-year-old former high school friend, spoke of spending time with Ulbricht at his family's vacation rental business in Costa Rica and finding him an "extremely calm, kind and loving person."

"And that's something that really impresses everyone that knows him," Haney added.

Daniel Davis, a 30-year-old working with Austin's Department of Water Protection, had similar memories of his friend of 18 years.

"He's one of the most peaceful people I know," Davis said.

Ulbricht never told this longtime friend that he ran an online drug website, grew mushrooms for it and ordered nine fake IDs, prosecutor Serrin Turner pressed him to agree.

Davis agreed that Ulbricht never told him about any of these things.

More character witnesses are expected to testify on Tuesday morning, followed by a defense investigator.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest struck down the only expert witnesses for the defense, a Columbia University-affiliated computer scientist and a bitcoin expert, on Monday morning.

Closing arguments are expected to wrap up as early as Tuesday afternoon.

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