Ross Ulbricht Biography
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Ross William Ulbricht
Born in: Austin, Texas
Famous as: Drug Trafficker
father: Kirk Ulbricht
mother: Lyn Ulbrich
education: Pennsylvania State University (2009), University of Texas at Dallas (2006)
Ross Ulbricht is an American former drug trafficker and darknet market operator who is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole at USP Florence High. He is best known for creating the underground marketplace site Silk Road under the pseudonym 'Dread Pirate Roberts'. He ran the site for about two years till his arrest in October 2013, by which time he had made a profit of $28.5 million in Bitcoins. He was charged with money laundering, computer hacking, conspiracy to traffic fraudulent identity documents, and conspiracy to traffic narcotics, and was convicted in February 2015. He also faced charges of soliciting the murder of a person who threatened to reveal site users. His family, friends and relatives claimed that they did not know anything about his illegal activities online and ran a campaign on www.freeross.org to draw support to free him, maintaining that instead of treated as a criminal, he should be treated as an activist for privacy.
- Ross William Ulbricht was born on March 27, 1984 in Austin, Texas to Kirk and Lyn Ulbricht. He grew up in the Austin metropolitan area where he was a Boy Scout and had attained the rank of Eagle Scout.
- He attended West Ridge Middle School and Westlake High School near Austin and completed his high school graduation in 2002. He then enrolled into the University of Texas at Dallas with a full academic scholarship and graduated with a bachelor's degree in physics in 2006.
- He joined Pennsylvania State University where he studied crystallography and completed his master's degree in materials science and engineering in 2009. While there, he became interested in the political philosophy of Ludwig von Mises and supported Ron Paul and often discussed his economic views in college debates.
- Ross Ulbricht returned to Austin after completing studies, but could not find regular employment and made a failed attempt to start his own day trading business. According to his mother, he had dabbled in a massively multiplayer online role-playing game of "creating an economic simulation".
- He found limited success while building an online used book seller, Good Wagon Books, with his friend and partner Donny Palmertree. He built the website, learned inventory management, and wrote a custom script to determine at which price the used books are to be sold to digital stores like Amazon and Books-A-Million.
- In 2010, his friend got a job in Dallas, and left the responsibility of the business to him, following which the company saw huge success. Around this time, Ulbricht, an advocate of libertarian philosophy, learned about the digital crypto-currency Bitcoin which he thought would abolish "coercion and aggression amongst mankind".
- By this time, he was already contemplating to build an online blackmarket where people could buy anything anonymously and decided to use Tor encryption protocol and Bitcoin to evade law enforcement. He initially considered the name 'Underground Brokers', but settled on Silk Road, and used the login id 'Dread Pirate Roberts'.
- In early 2011, the shelves at the Good Wagon Books warehouse collapsed, following which he and Palmertree decided to close the company. By mid-January, he had already set up his blackmarket website to sell psilocybin mushrooms as a starter product and soon sold out his 10 pounds stock.
- Other vendors and users started to flock to the site, and within a year it became a well-organized community marketplace, complete with profiles, listings, and transaction review. The site soon became an underground drug haven, often sending shipments via regular postal service and using vacuum techniques to avoid detection.
- The fact that Ross Ulbricht was using the alias 'Dread Pirate Roberts' was first identified in mid-2013 by Gary Alford, an IRS investigator working with the DEA on the Silk Road case. During the early days of the site, he had used another nickname, 'altoid', to seek programming help on a forum where he had given his email id containing his full name.
- In mid-2013, while tracking every move Ross Ulbricht made, the FBI found out that he was being blackmailed by a Silk Road user by the name 'FriendlyChemist'. He had reportedly hacked into another user's account and had obtained a long list of names and identities of Silk Road customers, whom he threatened to expose.
- He subsequently turned to the hitman 'redandwhite' on Silk Road to get FriendlyChemist executed. Despite initial disagreement over the price for the job, according to FBI documents, the job was successfully completed.
- The FBI arrested him in October 2013 from the Glen Park branch of the San Francisco Public Library for being the mastermind behind the Silk Road black marketing site. FBI ensured that he doesn't get the time to encrypt or delete data on his laptop by distracting him with two agents who pretended to quarrel while a third snatched it and began copying information.
- He was charged with money laundering, computer hacking, conspiracy to traffic narcotics and procuring murder, the last of which was dropped from the indictment, even though was considered while announcing his sentence. Following a jury trial in February 2015, he was convicted of all the charges and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole on 29 May 2015.
- On January 12, 2016, he had submitted an appeal, which was denied by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on May 31, 2017. He then filed his final appeal with the United States Supreme Court December 22, 2017, but his petition for rehearing was denied in February 2018.
- In 2008, while doing his master's at Penn State, Ross Ulbricht fell for freshman Julia Vie, whom he invited back to Austin after completing his degree the following year. She left school to join him and they began living together in a cheap apartment.
- They had an on-and-off relationship and had gone through frequent breakups throughout 2010 before splitting up that summer. Ulbricht, who was already trying to cope with his failed business attempts and gradually reducing options, was devastated.
- They briefly got together the following year when he was delving into the world of Silk Road, but they finally called it quits that summer, following which he left Austin and moved to Australia. He also dated a woman named Jessica, and while communicating with her, had revealed a few secrets which he later regretted.
- He moved to San Francisco in 2012 and stayed with a few friends before moving into a modest neighborhood despite earning good profits from the site. It was later revealed that his two roommates, whom he paid $1,000 to rent a room, knew him by the fake name 'Josh'.
- The 2015 documentary film 'Deep Web', directed by Alex Winter and narrated by actor and Bitcoin enthusiast Keanu Reeves, chronicles events surrounding Silk Road, Bitcoin and politics of the dark web. It features several interviews on the event and covers the trial of Ross Ulbricht.
- The anti-forensic kill switch software USBKill was created by developer 'Hephaest0s' in response to circumstances leading to Ulbricht's arrest. It can lock the screen, encrypt data, and even wipe the hard drive in case of unauthorized access via USB ports.
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