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Ross William Ulbricht: 'Dread Pirate Roberts' Behind Silk Road

By Michael Mullins   |   Friday, 04 Oct 2013 11:11 AM

Ross William Ulbricht, the alleged founder of the illicit online marketplace known as Silk Road, is a criminal mastermind, according to authorities. 

He was also a staunch Ron Paul supporter and libertarian, according to his college newspaper, and an "exceptionally bright and smart kid," according to his family.

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The 29-year-old Texas-born Ulbricht, who operated under the name "Dread Pirate Roberts," a reference to a character in the 1987 film "Princess Bride," was arrested Tuesday by the FBI in a San Francisco public library.

Prior to his arrest, he allegedly made $80 million in commissions since launching Silk Road, a site where users could purchase guns and drugs from around the world using digital currency known as Bitcoins, in 2011. The website collected 9.5 million in Bitcoin revenue in the past two years, an amount equivalent to about $1.2 billion in sales, according to the criminal complaint.

Immediately following his arrest, Silk Road was shut down by federal authorities.

According to the complaint, Ulbricht is a criminal mastermind, who "intentionally and knowingly [violated] the narcotics laws of the United States," and "solicited a Silk Road user to execute a murder—for-hire."

Ulbricht reportedly offered a Silk Road user $150,000 to murder another user who threatened to release the identities of those on the site. The murder was apparently never carried out, according to authorities.

Ulbricht's family, as well as some of the people who knew him from his alma mater Penn State University, have painted a different picture of the Texas-born developer.

"He’s an exceptionally bright and smart kid," half-brother Travis Ulbricht told Forbes magazine. "He’s always been upstanding and never had any trouble with the law that I knew of."

Ulbricht was a member of Penn State's College Libertarians group and the school's newspaper "The Daily Collegian." The newspaper identified Ulbricht as a supporter of Ron Paul who attempted to become a delegate for the then-presidential candidate at the Republican National Convention, Forbes reported. 

"There’s a lot to learn from him and his message of what it means to be a U.S. citizen and what it means to be a free individual," Ulbricht told the school paper in regards to Paul. "He doesn’t compromise his integrity as a politician and he fights quite diligently to restore the principles that our country was founded on."

Ulbricht's Libertarian views were also apparent in his online postings on Silk Road.

In October of 2012, Ulbricht apparently written "Silk Road was founded on libertarian principles and continues to be operated on them," Forbes noted.

"The same principles that have allowed Silk Road to flourish can and do work anywhere human beings come together," Ulbricht added. "The only difference is that the State is unable to get its thieving murderous mitts on it."

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As for how he viewed himself, Ulbricht called himself an "investment advisor and entrepreneur" on his LinkedIn Page, where he did not list an occupation.

Ulbricht earned a Master’s Degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Penn State. He graduated in 2010, at which time he reportedly wrote on his LinkedIn page that his "goals have shifted" from his physics education and towards the study and use of economic theory so to "abolish the use of coercion and aggression against mankind."

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