But now he faces bigger obstacles. This week federal prosecutors ratcheted up their offense, charging the 29 year-old currency trader with six murders-for-hire and various other conspiracies.
Authorities say they now have enough evidence to prove that Ulbricht commissioned a Silk Road user named redandwhite to kill a Canadian citizen he said was blackmailing him -- though thus far they haven't found the alleged victim. Redandwhite also implicated another website member, tony76, in the blackmail plot, and said he lived with three roommates. Ultimately, Ulbricht paid about $730,000 to have all of them murdered, according to court documents first revealed by the Baltimore Sun this morning.
Ulbricht already faces a litany of narcotics trafficking, hacking, money laundering, and conspiracy charges, all stemming from the massive e-commerce bazaar that he allegedly built and maintained while living the quiet, monastic life of a tech bro in San Francisco's West Portal neighborhood. His alleged website, Silk Road, became hi-tech's answer to the sprawling old-fashioned trade route -- the free-market promise of the Internet, brought to its extreme.
To some, the crimes still hover in morally squishy territory, since none of the murders ever happened. But that hasn't stopped prosecutors from trying to deny Ulbricht bail. Not only is he a dangerous, violent man, they say; he also poses a flight risk, as indicated by the numerous fake identity documents that Homeland Security officials intercepted this summer. The false IDs suggest Ulbricht was planning to abscond to another country, prosecutors say.
In their appeal for donations, friends and family offered heartfelt testimonials about Ulbricht's character, though people who knew him also say he was elusive. He was also formidably rational, perhaps to the point of justifying assassination as the cost of preserving an empire. At this point, it may be difficult to build a persuasive character profile from the strange and often contradictory digital trail that Ulbricht left behind.
Regardless of what happens to the defendant, though, Silk Road may live on in perpetuity. A few weeks ago a new iteration of the site, Silk Road 2.0, launched with the same format and the same product offerings, and a new administrator who adopted Ulbricht's alleged nom de guerre, Dread Pirate Roberts. Prosecutors might have apprehended the founder, but now they're faced with the meme.