Federal authorities today shut down “Silk Road,” a website that lets people buy illegal and prescription drugs easily and anonymously.
According to an unsealed complaint filed by the FBI, federal agents on Tuesday arrested Ross Ulbricht, the operator of the site who allegedly went by the names, “Dread Pirate Roberts” and “DPR,” and charged him with narcotics trafficking, computer hacking and money laundering.
In an affidavit, FBI Agent Christopher Tarbell referred to the Silk Road website as a “sprawling black-market bazaar where illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services” are routinely bought and sold.
He said the site was used by “several thousand drug dealers” to sell “hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs.”
Website users would complete their transactions by using virtual currency known “Bitcoins,” which can be purchased with real cash and do not leave a trail. According to the complaint, Silk Road generated sales totaling more than 9.5 million bitcoin or roughly $1.2 billion.
“Silk Road has emerged as the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet today,” Tarbell wrote. “The site has sought to make conducting illegal transactions on the Internet as easy and frictionless as shopping online at mainstream e-commerce websites.”
During the course of the investigation, FBI agents signed up as users and made more than 100 purchases of drugs, which they had shipped to the New York area.
In June 2011, Democratic Sens. Charles E. Schumer of New York and Joe Manchin of West Virginia urged Attorney General Eric Holder and the Drug Enforcement Administration administrator, Michele Leonhart to shutter the site.
Today, Schumer released a statement saying “sayonara to Silk Road.” He added: “The country is safer now that this open market for law-breaking has been shuttered.”
Meanwhile, a bail hearing has been set for Friday in San Francisco.