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'Dread Pirate Roberts' suspect's bid for freedom fails

'Bitcoin isn't money' argument laughed off by judge

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Ross Ulbricht has lost his bid to have money-laundering and other charges dismissed.

According to Reuters, the man accused of being Silk Road's “Dread Pirate Roberts” tried to slip from under the money-laundering charge on the basis that Bitcoin isn't money, but property. That argument didn't impress US District Judge Katherine Forrest of Manhattan, who in a 57-page opinion wrote that American money-laundering law “captures all movements of 'funds' by any means”.

“The only value for Bitcoin lies in its ability to pay for things”, she went on. “The money laundering statute is broad enough to encompass use of Bitcoins in financial transactions. Any other reading would … be nonsensical”.

Ulbricht's attempt to have the conspiracy charges against him dismissed was also denied by the judge.

His lawyers had argued that Silk Road was merely “a facilitator – just like eBay, Amazon, or similar websites”. This, Judge Forrest said, did not preclude a charge of conspiracy: “there is no legal prohibition against such criminal conspiracy charges provided that the defendant possesses (as the Indictment alleges here) the requisite intent to join with others in unlawful activity.”

Because “Ulbricht is alleged to have knowingly and intentionally constructed and operated an expansive black market”, the judge said, his behaviour is different from a Website launched for legitimate purposes, but which becomes (against its intentions) a market for illegal transactions.

“The allegations amount to Ulbricht acting as a sort of 'godfather' - determining the territory, the actions which may be undertaken, and the commissions he will retain; disciplining others to stay in line, and generally casting himself as a leader”, the judge stated.

Ulbricht remains in custody, Reuters reports, and will be back in front of the court in November 2014. ®

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