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FBI seizes, shutters infamous website for black-market drug deals

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 2 2013 3:51 p.m. MDT

A 29-year-old man has been charged in federal court with being the mastermind behind Silk Road, a secretive website for obtaining illegal drugs that launched in 2011.

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By arresting Ross Ulbright in a San Francisco library on Tuesday morning, the FBI believes it has apprehended the owner of the Silk Road website that allegedly facilitated $1.2 billion in the online sales of illegal drugs since 2011.

Regarding the criminal complaint filed against Ulbright in federal court, Reuters’ Emily Flitter reported, “FBI agent Christopher Tarbell said, ‘Silk Road has emerged as the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet today.’ … According to Tarbell, the site was used by ‘several thousand drug dealers’ to sell ‘hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs.’ ”

“The operation that led to Ulbricht’s arrest was a collaboration between the FBI, police, and prosecutors in the Southern District of New York,” Jessica Roy wrote for Time.com. “Since November 2011, agents claim to have made over 100 different drug purchases through Silk Road. The complaint estimates that Silk Road has processed transactions worth over a total of 9.5 million Bitcoins, which adds up to roughly $1.2 billion in sales.”

The New York Times’ Joseph Goldstein reported Wednesday, “The arrest is part of the latest push by federal authorities to police the anonymous marketplaces that have flourished as a result of virtual currencies and software meant to help users browse the Web anonymously. In recent months, federal authorities charged seven people believed to be linked to Liberty Reserve, another virtual currency, which prosecutors described as a $6 billion money-laundering operation that facilitated a black market for everything from stolen identities to child pornography.”

In March, James Ball wrote for The Guardian that Silk Road is "an underground eBay-like site which has become the core marketplace for buying and selling drugs online. … (Although) law enforcement authorities across the world (are) fully aware of its operation they have, so far, been powerless to stop it."

Email: jaskar@desnews.com

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