The accused proprietor of the online drug marketplace Silk Road was indicted Thursday in a murder-for-hire scheme allegedly carried out to silence a Silk Road user who was attempting to extort him.
Ross William Ulbricht was indicted in a Maryland court on three counts — including conspiracy to commit murder of a witness, use of interstate commerce in murder-for-hire, and conspiracy to contribute a controlled substance. He’s scheduled to appear in a detention hearing Thursday morning in federal court in San Francisco. Ulbricht, who was arrested Tuesday morning, has yet to make any public statement about the case.
The indictment alleges that Ulbricht paid an undercover agent $80,000 worth of Bitcoin — an online currency — to carry out a hit on a Silk Road employee who was arrested and who he feared would divulge secrets about the online drug enterprise. Ulbricht, authorities charge, said the employee had also been siphoning Bitcoin funds from Silk Road users, and asked the undercover agent to torture him until he transferred the Bitcoin money back to their rightful owners, then to kill him.
The undercover agent provided proof of torture, which he had staged, prompting Ulbricht to transfer $40,000 worth of Bitcoin; he then transferred $40,000 more once the undercover agent furnished more staged proof showing that the hit had been carried out, the indictment says.
In a federal complaint published Wednesday, Ulbricht was named as the operator of Silk Road, a thriving online drug marketplace on the Deep Web, a hidden section of the web not indexed by search engines and accessible only through an anonymized browser called Tor.
The complaint also alleges Ulbricht attempted to arrange a second hit on a man who threatened to reveal the identities of Silk Road’s anonymous users.