Trial of alleged Silk Road kingpin set to begin

Ross Ulbricht faces seven charges and 20 years' porridge

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The trial of alleged former drugs baron Ross Ulbricht over charges relating to defunct illicit goods site Silk Road is to begin tomorrow.

Ulbricht will appear before a New York court tomorrow accused of seven separate crimes, including narcotics trafficking, running a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to aid and abet hacking, and money laundering.

According to the US government, Ulbricht operated under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts, and controlled every aspect of Silk Road, including the server infrastructure, programming code, and profits generated from sales.

The site evaded detection by running on the encrypted Tor browser and operating in Bitcoins until it was shut down in 2013. Ulbricht was arrested on 1 October 2013 at a San Francisco public library, where FBI agents seized his computer.

The US government also alleges that Ulbricht was willing to resort to violence to protect Silk Road.

Last week Judge Katherine Forrest, the judge presiding over the case, ruled that the “murder-for-hire” allegations against Ulbricht could be heard.

While the government states that no murders occurred, it alleges Ulbricht solicited six murders for hire, as part of what it claims were his efforts to protect Silk Road and his interests.

Ulbricht's defence team had asked the court to preclude evidence, including the “murder-for-hire” accusations.

The suspect faces a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison. He has denied he is Dread Pirate Roberts and has pleaded not guilty. ®

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