Silk Road was established in 2012 and is the first modern darknet market.
The marketplace was however shut down by US authorities in October 2013 after more than two-year-long investigations by the Homeland Security Department in Maryland that started after a tipoff in mid-2011.
By the time Silk Road was seized, it was the most prominent online marketplace with FBI agent Christopher Tarbell terming the site as the ‘most sophisticated and extensive market criminal marketplace on the internet.’
Silk Road was created by William Ross Ulbricht currently aged 36. In the operations of the market, Ulbricht used the alias Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR), a name he got from a 1987 movie The Princess Bride to disguise his identity and run the market.
Arrest of Ulbricht
Ulbricht was arrested on October 2, 2013, at Glen Park Library in San Francisco while undertaking activities on the marketplace.
Following the raid that led to the arrest and seizure of the site, authorities confiscated assets belonging to the mastermind, and they included the device and cryptocurrency running into millions of dollars.
During his arrest, authorities had to make sure that his computer was on and he was still logged on to the market. This is a tactic common among law enforcement.
In October 2017, the US government actioned a total of 144,336 seized from Silk Road and earned a total of $48 million according to the market value at the time.
The Arrest of Ulbritch
While running the market, the Silk Rod founder did some colossal blunders that ultimately led to his arrest.
In a series of actions involving the market, Ulbricht left traces that investigators used to pinpoint the mastermind. The first blunder is showing off on LinkedIn that he runs an illicit marketplace which is not a wise idea given the nature of his business.
In his LinkedIn profile, Ulbricht says he wanted to create an economic simulation meant to give people a new experience of how it is like to live in a world without the use of systematic force by any party.
Next, he used his actual photograph to order nine fake IDs which he used to rent servers for his market. Border police intercepted the package as it was heading to the US from Canada.
Another costly mistake is using his actual email address to post on a forum requesting for coding active on Silk Road market. When analyzed, the lines of codes matched to that of the Silk Road market.
He did the same thing by posting on Google+ profile where he sought contacts on how he can ship items internationally.
Last but not least, he hired an assassin in his market, which turned out to be an undercover cop. The to-be assassin was paid $80,000 in bitcoin to facilitate the job.
Charges Against Ulbricht
After his arrest and prosecution, Ulbricht was convicted of seven charges that include money laundering, drug trafficking, murder, and ‘kingpin’ reserved mafias among other charges.
An appeal file by Ulbricht, a first-time convict was denied in May 2017 and he is currently serving a double life sentence without the possibility of parole.
In addition to that, Ulbricht has a plus 40 years for his non-violent crimes in creating Silk Road according to Freeross a site trying to support his release through signing a petition.
Products and Earnings From Silk Road
According to prosecutors which is a jury consisting of six men and women said Silk Road generated over $200 million in sales and a subsequent $13.2 million in commissions when operating.
The site offered a wide variety of products that include all sorts of drugs which accounted for almost 70% of the sales. Other services include stolen financial data, hacked accounts, fake documents, and hundreds of other digital items.
Life on the Darknet After Silk Road
Because Silk Road was the very first modern darknet market, it paved the way for the current darknet markets, and the administrators of these sites learn from the mistakes that led to the fall of previous markets.
When talking about the early days of Tor markets, one cannot do so without mentioning Silk Road because a majority of those who knew about the darknet and how Bitcoin worked did so through this site since it got extensive media coverage.One notable figure who learned about cryptocurrency through Silk Road is Charlie Lee, ex-engineer at Google and the founder of Litecoin.
Since the fall of Silk Road, dozens of markets have sprouted to replace the original version, but no single one has survived to the very end. What happens is that they will either fall due to hacks, exit scams, seizure by police and lastly, the decision by the administrators to discontinue the marketplace.
Reputable markets with unique features came up with promising future but never saw the light of the day include Silk Road 2, Silk Road 3, Agora, Evolution, AlphaBay, Hansa, Olympus, Dream, WallStreet, Nightmare and many others.The trend is that when one marketplace closes for one reason or the other, someone somewhere is developing another one.
These new markets tend to have features never seen before. For example, when Silk Road went down, AlphaBay grew to become bigger in the customer base and product listings.
At its peak, AlphaBay was the top market and the first to integrate payment options that were not available in Silk Road or other markets. Silk Road only had bitcoin as a mode of payment.The same happened for markets that came after they tried to be unique by having distinct features.
Silk Road News in Summary
February 2011: Silk Road Launched
June/July 2011: Investigations into the marketplace begin
October 2013: Ulbricht arrested, and market seized
May 2015: Ulbricht sentenced to double life sentence plus 40 years in jail without the possibility of parole
May 2017: Silk Road founder loses appeal on his conviction
March 2019: Silk Road founder fails to secure a rehearing on appeal case
June 2019: Silk Road seeks to correct his evidence
August 2019: Ulbricht’s latest appeal postponed