Alleged Silk Road Drug Lord Led Double Life as Entrepreneur

Good Morning America

FBI Seizes 'eBay for Drugs,' Alleged Kingpin

Now watching

Next video starts in : 7 Play

FBI Seizes 'eBay for Drugs,' Alleged Kingpin

The alleged Internet drug lord who created an online black market dubbed the "Amazon of illegal drugs" by the FBI led a double life, cultivating an outward appearance of a clean-cut entrepreneur while secretly helping to shuffle over $1 billion in drugs via his website, authorities and his family said.

Ross William Ulbricht, 29, allegedly ran Silk Road, which the FBI called "the most sophisticated criminal marketplace on the Internet," where thousands sold cocaine, meth, MDMA and other drugs. The FBI arrested Ulbricht on Tuesday afternoon at a San Francisco library and the website was shut down, authorities said.

Ulbricht is being charged with narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy. From February of 2011 to July of 2013, Silk Road did $1.2 billion worth of business, according to the FBI.

But members of his family have said that they had no idea what he was doing. His half-brother Travis Ulbricht told Forbes that he found the news of the arrest "somewhat shocking."

"He's an exceptionally bright and smart kid. He's always been upstanding and never had any trouble with the law that I knew of," he said.

Silk Road Website Dealt Drugs, Guns, Assassins for Bitcoins, FBI Says. Read more here.

Ulbricht was even a public social media user. A cursory search brings up his Facebook page, and conversations he had with close friend René Pinnell were posted on YouTube, though they have now been removed.

According to his LinkedIn profile, which features a clean-cut headshot, he is a 2010 Penn State graduate and investment adviser and entrepreneur who "studied physics in college and worked as a research scientist for five years," until moving in a new direction.

"Now, my goals have shifted," he wrote on his LinkedIn page. "I want to use economic theory as a means to abolish the use of coercion and aggression amongst mankind. Just as slavery has been abolished most everywhere, I believe violence, coercion and all forms of force by one person over another can come to an end."

Silk Road Arrest Shines Light on 'Dark Web.' Read more here.

Ulbricht lived with René Pinnell in an apartment on Hickory Street in San Francisco's Hayes Valley neighborhood when he first moved to California from Texas, according to the FBI. The two have been friends since the age of 10, While many questions remain about the seemingly double life led by Ulbricht, just as many are being asked about how and why he was caught.

At the time of his arrest, Ulbricht had his laptop with him, indicating that he may have been conducting business in plain sight -- literally within a government building. This could be a hint to what one digital security expert said may have led to Ulbricht's undoing: cheapness.

Digital Citizens Alliance Fellow Garth Bruen told ABCNews.com that he's been poring over the complaint against Ulbricht since it was released, and he said it seems the alleged drug kingpin's reluctance to spend money on shielding his dealings did him in.

"He made what I would say were extremely amateur mistakes. He had fake IDs shipped to his home address. I can't think of anything more bone-headed," Bruen said. "Silk Road sold access to private anonymous mail drops, yet he wouldn't spend the money to do it himself."

Ulbricht was confronted by U.S. Homeland Security officials in July after seizing a shipment of fake IDs that used Ulbricht's photo.

Ulbricht had a reputation for being very miserly with his Silk Road employees, especially with those he was entrusting secrets to, Bruen said.

"The fact that he was sharing an apartment to save money is kind of shocking to me, when he could have rented his own house. He was exposing himself to other people," he said.

According to the FBI complaint, Ulbricht even complained about the price when he was allegedly attempting to hire a hit man to murder someone who was planning to expose anonymous online identities.

"He was haggling about the price of a hit man," Bruen said. "That's a dangerous step to take."

But it may have been not following his own advice that led to his capture. "They haven't been caught yet, so they think they won't be caught," Bruen said. "He was cheap. If he had spent money on creating layers of privacy, it would have been harder to get caught."

View Comments (1232)

Recommended for You

  • Zika Virus Outbreak Prompts CDC to Activate Highest Emergency Ops Level

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emergency Operations Center has been moved to Level 1, the agency's highest level, due to the risk of Zika virus transmission in the U.S., officials said today. The Level 1 activation is "reflecting the agency’s assessment of the need for an…

    Good Morning America17 mins ago
  • US Veteran Says He is 'ISIS Soldier,' Calls Bin Laden 'Beautiful Man,' Officials Say

    The FBI has arrested a former member of the Army on weapons charges after he allegedly expressed sympathy for ISIS, called Osama bin Laden "a beautiful man" and said the murder of government agents was "a hundred percent obligation," according to court documents filed in a Washington state federal…

    Good Morning America36 mins ago
  • Giant Rabbit From Scotland Looking for a Home

    The Scottish SPCA center in Glasgow has a 7-month-old continental giant rabbit up for adoption. The rabbit, Atlas, is already about the size of a Westie dog and is still expected to grow, according to a Feb. 8 press release from the Scottish SPCA. Atlas is not only the same size as a dog, but…

    Good Morning America
  • Chinese New Year Fireworks So Dangerous That Only a Few Get to Witness

    For much of the next two weeks, millions of Chinese will welcome in the Year of Monkey, which begins today, with a cavalcade of fireworks lighting up the night’s sky. In almost every corner of every city or village in Mainland China, families will light their own firecrackers and boxes of…

    Good Morning America
  • Duchess Kate Champions Mental Health in New PSA

    Duchess Kate is on a mission. The Duchess of Cambridge, 34, is speaking out in a new public service announcement (PSA) to raise awareness for Children’s Mental Health week for her mental health charity, Place2Be. The Duchess recorded a special video message to coincide with Children’s Mental…

    Good Morning America
  • 'Kung Fu Panda 3' Stays on Top at the Box Office

    "Kung Fu Panda 3" scored another box office win during Super Bowl weekend.The animated sequel earned an estimated $21 million in its second weekend of release.'Kung Fu Panda 3' Tops the Box Office'The Revenant' Tops Weekend Box OfficeThe Coen brothers' "Hail, Caesar!" opened in second place,…

    Good Morning America
  • WWE Wrestler Daniel Bryan to Retire

    Former WWE champion and professional wrestling star Daniel Bryan is retiring."Due to medical reasons, effective immediately, I am announcing my retirement. Tonight on Raw, I'll have a chance to elaborate. #gratitude," he tweeted on Monday.Read: Stone Cold Steve Austin: My Life After Pro…

    Good Morning America
  • 'Girls' Star Lena Dunham Taking Time Off for 'Chronic' Illness

    The acclaimed HBO show "Girls" is back for its final season next month, but its biggest star will not being making press appearances due to a "chronic condition."Lena Dunham took to Instagram today to write, "I just wanted to let you know that, while I am so excited for Girls to return on Feb 21, I…

    Good Morning America
  • Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Rocked by Hurricane-Force Winds Heads Back to New Jersey

    A Royal Caribbean cruise ship that was rocked by hurricane-force winds overnight is sailing back to port in Bayonne, New Jersey. The ship left from Cape Liberty, New Jersey, on Saturday for a seven-night cruise to the Bahamas. The company posted a message on Twitter saying that all guests are…

    Good Morning America
  • Dad's Piano-Playing Lullaby Soothes Baby Boy to Sleep in Seconds

    Take a look at little Samuel who couldn’t fall asleep because he had an ear infection. The moment his crafty dad starts playing his own version of the classic “Brahms’ Lullaby” however, the soothing sounds work like magic, putting the tiny tot to sleep within seconds.

    Good Morning America
  • Super Bowl 50: Beyonce Takes Fans Behind the Scenes of Her Performance

    Although Coldplay headlined the Super Bowl 50 halftime performance, all eyes were on Beyonce, who shared the stage with the British band along with pop star Bruno Mars.The singer, who announced her Formation World Tour right after the big game ended, is letting fans in on how her performance came…

    Good Morning America
  • Countdown to New Hampshire With 5 Things to Watch in Tuesday's Primary

    Tuesday will be a critical moment on the road to the White House as residents of the Granite State cast their votes in the first-in-the-nation primary. With independents making up more than 40 percent of the electorate, the New Hampshire primary can often surprise, and that may be the case…

    Good Morning America
  • Super Bowl 50: Peyton Manning 'Very Much at Peace'

    Peyton Manning says he’s “very much at peace” as he contemplates retirement from the NFL just hours after winning his second Super Bowl title. Manning, 39, finished 13 for 23 for 141 yards in the Broncos’ 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in Sunday’s Super Bowl game at California’s Levi’s…

    Good Morning America
  • Panda Cub Bei Bei Climbs a Tree With the Help of His Mom

    Bei Bei is moving up in the world.The Smithsonian National Zoo’s baby panda experienced the outdoors for the first time last week and now the nearly six-month-old cub is scaling trees—-with the help of his mom Mei Xiang, of course. The Washington DC based Zoo posted a video of the feat online this…

    Good Morning America
  • Going Mobile with Wage Payments

    Learn more about how ADP is helping employers with their mobile strategy

    ADPSponsored
  • 4 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Scoring Beyonce Tour Tickets

    Minutes after Beyonce announced her 2016 Formation World Tour during Super Bowl 50, fans flooded to her website looking for more information about the tour, and temporarily crashed the site. Fans have also been tweeting in anticipation and excitement for the ticket sales to go live. Securing…

    Good Morning America
  • Paris Jackson Reveals Struggle With Alcoholism, Pressures of Fame

    Paris Jackson, the only daughter of music legend Michael Jackson, is apparently struggling with alcoholism.In a now-deleted, profanity-laced rant on Instagram, the 17-year-old told her followers that she was being attacked online."I am expected to literally sit … all day replying to comments people…

    Good Morning America
  • Russians Arrest 7 in Alleged ISIS-Related Terror Plot

    Russian security services have arrested seven people accused of plotting terror attacks on behalf of the Islamic State in major Russian cities, the country’s FSB intelligence agency said today. The arrests were made in the city of Ekaterinburg, located in the Urals region on the edge of Siberia,…

    Good Morning America