The FBI seized Bitcoin-powered Silk Road today after a lengthy investigation into the reputed drug marketplace and its founder.
Authorities believe a 29-year-old San Francisco-based man named Ross Ulbricht ran Silk Road, which allegedly brought in millions of dollars from a number of often sketchy, illegal transactions. If you visit the website today, you will find a seizure notice from the FBI.
Ulbricht allegedly went by the name of Dread Pirate Roberts on Silk Road, according to the indictment, which was found by investigative journalist Brian Krebs. The indictment charges Ulbricht with narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy, and money-laundering conspiracy. He is said to have made $79.8 million in commissions from the website while Silk Road overall did $1.2 billion in sales.
Christopher Tarbell, an undercover FBI agent, cracked Dread Pirate Roberts’ identity while using Silk Road himself — even making some transactions of his own.
The Silk Road was based on the Tor Network, a “dark place” on the Internet where people go to conceal their identities. Criminals use it, but it’s also used for a number of legitimate purposes, such as by journalists to conceal sources. It was set up like a normal marketplace, according to Tarbell, though it used Bitcoin, which has since tanked in value.