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Researcher Jennifer Stone
Friday, 29 November 2013
Bondi Drug Bust Silk road
Ross William Ulbricht lived at Bondi while allegedly developing billion-dollar drugs website Silk Road
THE man accused of masterminding billion-dollar drugs website Silk Road was living in Bondi Beach while developing the site, The Sunday Telegraph can exclusively reveal.
Ross William Ulbricht, 29, was arrested while using his laptop in the science fiction section of a San Francisco library by FBI agents and charged with narcotics trafficking, computer hacking and money laundering.
According to documents filed in the Southern District Court of New York, Ulbricht established the site - described by FBI prosecutors as "the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet today" - in January 2011 and was running it up to late September 2013, when he was nabbed by police.
Accused mastermind of drugs website Silk Road Ross William Ulbricht with his sister Cally. Picture: FacebookSource: Supplied
The timing places him in Sydney during the site's early stages, with a local friend saying he spent about six months in the city in 2011, during which he lived in a share house in Bondi Beach.
Ulbricht yesterday appeared calm at a bail hearing in a US federal court, wearing red prison clothes and shackles. His lawyer yesterday denied the charges against him.
A Sydney friend said he was "absolutely gobsmacked" to learn of Ulbricht's double life.
"He's the nicest guy," the friend said. "He said he was a programmer consulting in projects and you could do it from anywhere on the road on laptops. I'm totally spun out."
The accused's sister, Cally Ulbricht, still lives in Bondi. She's not linked to her brother's activities. Authorities claim Ulbricht ran the Silk Road Hidden Website under the alias "Dread Pirate Roberts" from the movie The Princess Bride.
A still of the Silk Road website shows thumbnails for products allegedly available through the site. Picture: APSource: AP
The site functioned as a black market bazaar for drugs, brokering more than $1 billion in transactions for illegal drugs and services such as computer hacking and the sale of fake IDs and passports.
Ulbricht is also alleged to have hired a hit man for $160,000 to kill a blackmailer who threatened to expose users of the site.
In a separate indictment in Maryland, police claim he told an undercover police operative posing as a drug dealer he would pay him to torture and kill a former employee he believed stole money from the site.
Almost one million people used the site from around the world, including Australia.
Police swooped on Ulbricht while he was chatting on his laptop with a cooperating witness about Silk Road and taken into custody.
This artist rendering shows Ross William Ulbricht, second from left, appearing in Federal Court with his public defender Brandon LeBlanc in San Francisco on October 4, 2013. Picture: APSource: AP
He was allegedly brought down when an amateur user on the tech site Stack Overflow asked a technical question and Ulbricht answered that the user could go to his website Silk Road, inadvertently using his real name.
One minute later, he changed his name to "Frosty" on the site, but not before the slip-up caught the attention of the FBI.
Authorities then allegedly matched codes in Ulbricht's answer to trace the website back to him.
If convicted, Ulbricht faces a lengthy jail sentence.
Ironically, he penned a lengthy post on his Facebook page on the subject of freedom back in July 2010, before he is alleged to have started the website.
The price of Bitcoins has continued to fall after it dropped to 8.6 per cent following a raid on Silk Road, the online marketplace that allegedly allows illegal drugs and illicit services to be bought using the virtual currency. Picture: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images
"Is it possible for someone locked in a cage to be freer than someone who isn't?" Ulbricht wrote. "What if they are free from limiting beliefs and can imagine experiences without limits, while the other limits themselves to a prison of dull routines?"