Accused Silk Road Operator Ordered to N.Y. for Hearing

Ross William Ulbricht, who is charged with running a billion-dollar online bazaar that sold heroin, hacking services and phony passports, will be transported to New York for a bail hearing, a federal judge ordered.

Ulbricht, 29, today made his third appearance in federal court in San Francisco after being arrested Oct. 1 by federal agents at a public library. After Ulbricht waived his right to bail and an identity hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero said he would be sent to federal court in Manhattan to face charges. Ulbricht will seek bail there, Brandon LeBlanc, his public defender, told the judge.

“Another attorney will represent him in New York,” LeBlanc said after the hearing. He declined to comment on whether Ulbricht has hired his own lawyer.

Prosecutors say Ulbricht ran a marketplace for contraband on his “Silk Road” website and was known as “Dread Pirate Roberts,” after a character in the 1987 film “The Princess Bride.” LeBlanc said Oct. 4 that his client denied all the charges.

Illicit Sales

Federal agents seized Silk Road, along with $3.6 million in Bitcoin digital currency, and shut down the site Oct. 2. Prosecutors said in court filings in Manhattan that the site generated more than a billion dollars in illicit sales and took in $80 million in commissions in less than three years. The prosecutors called Silk Road “the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet.”

Ulbricht is charged with narcotics-trafficking conspiracy, computer-hacking conspiracy and money-laundering conspiracy. The narcotics count carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $1 million fine.

Ulbricht, who graduated with a physics degree from the University of Texas in 2006, told Spero at an Oct. 2 hearing that he couldn’t afford an attorney.

Separately, a federal grand jury in Maryland indicted Ulbricht on charges of trying to arrange the murder of an employee who he feared would become a witness against him.

At least a half-dozen federal agents surrounded Ulbricht near the science fiction shelf at a San Francisco Public Library branch on Oct. 1 before leading him away, said Michelle Jeffers, a library spokeswoman.

The criminal case is U.S. v. Ulbricht, 13-mg-023287; a related civil forfeiture case is U.S. v. Ulbricht, 13-cv-06919, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The murder-for-hire case is U.S. v. Ulbricht, 13-00222, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland (Baltimore).

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