The Web’s biggest illegal drug marketplace is shut down by the FBI

BY News Desk  October 2, 2013 at 4:15 PM EST

A notice from Federal agencies declares that the online drug marketplace called “The Silk Road” was seized on Wednesday.

The Silk Road, the internet’s largest known marketplace for drugs and other illegal products, was shut down by several federal agencies on Wednesday. Security journalist Brian Krebs broke the story and published the FBI criminal complaint against Ross William Ulbricht, who allegedly operated the Silk Road, where more than 13,000 different illegal substances were listed for sale. Ulbricht, who the FBI says is the man behind the online moniker “Dread Pirate Roberts,” was arrested at a San Francisco public library on Tuesday afternoon. Among other crimes, Ulbricht is alleged to have attempted to have an associate killed via a “clean” hit. It’s unclear as to whether or not the murder actually happened.

The criminal complaint against Ulbricht is filled with incredible details about the Silk Road, which federal agents in charge of the investigation called “the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet today.” To maintain anonymity and security, the Silk Road did not reside on the ordinary internet, but on servers connected to a secure network called Tor. Ulbricht, the complaint alleges, brought together suppliers and buyers on his website, and even provided customer service to his users.

A few details revealed in the complaint:

  • The Silk road did $1.2 billion in revenues from 2011 to 2013, resulting in an estimated $80 million in commissions for the site’s operator.

  • Despite these huge revenues, Ulbricht shared an apartment with two roommates who apparently didn’t know he was operating an online criminal marketplace. The complaint states that his roommates knew him as “Josh”, and that he “was always home in his room on the computer.” Ulbricht’s share of the rent was $1,000 per month.

  • The silk road had more than 900,000 registered users, and purchases were made involving 146,946 individual buyer accounts. There were 3,877 unique vendor accounts.

  • Free online computer help may have lead he FBI to connect Ulbricht to the Silk Road. Federal agents found Ulbrict’s public posts on websites like Stackoverflow.com where he asked for advice on running his website’s servers to connect him directly to the Silk Road’s administration, technology and development.

  • Or, buying fake IDs may have lead law enforcement to connect the dots. According the complaint, Ulbricht was questioned in July of this year, when a package filled with 9 different identity documents, each with a different false identity, was intercepted before being delivered to his address.

  • Bitcoins, the anonymous online currency that was used to make purchases on Silk Road, have had a rocky day after news of the raid broke, losing nearly 25% of their value.

  • The Feds have the contents of the Silk road servers, and it’s clear that Ulbricht didn’t delete much incriminating evidence. The complaint contains details on a 2012 chat history where Ulbricht paid another Silk Road user $150,000 to kill another user who was threatening to reveal personal details on the site’s users and suppliers. It’s unclear whether or not the alleged muder-for-hire was ever carried out, but the $150,000 did change hands.

Read the complete criminal complaint against Ulbricht below. It’s a riveting document: