Ross Ulbricht, via the Official Ross Ulbricht Defense Fund
The saga of Ross Ulbricht just keeps getting stranger.
The 29-year-old self-styled "entrepreneur," arrested last month in connection to the now-shuttered Silk Road online bazaar, was not only denied bail today in New York federal court, but also handed four additional murder-for-hire chages. That brings the grand total of contract killing charges now faced by the man accused of having helmed a $1.2 billion illegal drugs and services marketplace to six.
Forbes is reporting that criminal prosecutor Seerin Turner, who delivered an extensive statement to the court, says he compiled a lot of his evidence from a Silk Road server being held by the FBI. Together with information pulled off Ulbricht's laptop, which was seized when Ulbricht was arrested in October as he tapped quietly near the sci-fi racks at a San Francisco libary, Turner made the case that Ulbricht was at one point indeed in talks with a pair of would-be hitmen, one of whom was an undercover agent, to bump off "a witness and a blackmailer," according to Forbes.
But he maybe didn't stop there. Turner went on to accuse Ulbricht of then ordering hits on an associate of the blackmailer plus three people who happened to live with the guy. In a rather curious move, Turner admitted that not a single actual victim has been found in relation to any of the cases. The first—the one with the undercover agent that revolved around one Curtis Green, an otherwise unassuming semi-pro poker player living in Utah—found Ulbricht duped by the Feds, who sent him bogus images of a supposedly-dead (and tortured) Green. In the other five accused plots, the outcomes remain unknown.
Even still, Turner says the evidence is "crystal clear that the defendent intended these murders to happen," according to Forbes.
Turner didn't confine his remarks just to murder-for-hire allegations. He read from a journal of Ulbricht's found on one of his harddrives, offering brief glimpses into the supposed origins and lightbulb-moments behind the Silk Road, which apparently was first called "Underground Brokers". Here's the choice passage:
I began working on a project that had been in my mind for over a year. I was calling it Underground Brokers, but eventually settled on Silk Road. The idea was to create a website where people could buy anything anonymously, with no trail whatsoever that could lead back to them.
He'd have to get the thing off the ground by himself. To hear Turner tell it, Ulbricht's diary also details how he hunkered in an off-the-grid lab, growing "several kilos of psychedelic mushrooms". An unknown amount of this psilocybin would be put up for sale on the fledgling Road, Turner continued. Grease for the wheels.
It gets wilder. Once the marketplace really starting getting traction, once Turner says Ulbricht, who may or may not have operated under the handle Dread Pirate Roberts, found himself wrapped up tighter and tighter in the anonmyous web of murders for hire, might have solicited the Hell's Angels to carry out a few of the killings. Turner read a line from a log of Ulbricht's activities that said he would "commission hit on blackmailers" from user redandwhite—a clear nod, Turner claimed, to the colors of the infamous motorcycle gang.
Whether any of this contains a single kernel of truth remains to be seen. For his part,Judge Nathanial Fox said that in light of "powerful evidence presented to us that the defendent has attempted to secure the murders of a number of people" Ulbricht presents a clear and present flight risk. Fox denied him bail.
The pendulum now swings to Ulbricht's lawyer. Joshua Dratel has made a career out of defending some of the most high-profile terrorists post-9/11, and told the court today that Ulbricht "has never committed a violent act in his life." Ulbricht's mother, Lyn, who along with immediate family and friends hopes to raise $500,000 in one month for Ulbricht's defense fund, echoed that sentiment to reporters post-hearing: "I can tell you he's not a murderer."