Ross Ulbricht, whose 2015 trial introduced millions to both Bitcoin and the “Dark Web,” may be serving life-without-parole, but it hasn’t stopped him opening a Twitter account this week – @Free_Ross – and tweeting “I’m hoping to find my voice here after all these years of silence.”
It might seem strange, but Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the notorious Dark Web drugs and guns supermarket Silk Road, who is currently serving life in prison without parole, joined Twitter last week. While denied direct access to the internet, Ulbricht is now able to communicate with his supporters via the Twittersphere. Ulbricht provides handwritten notes which are vetted, and then posted by prison officials onto a Twitter page set up for him in his name. No doubt, Ulbricht will be hoping the account will help him gain online support as he continues to battle against his perceived injustice of imprisonment.
Here’s his first tweet:
Hi, this is Ross! I’m hoping to find my voice here after all these years of silence. It has been a strange journey, but I’m so grateful for all those who’ve shown love and support and held me up through the hard times. You give me strength. https://t.co/x4m6J3lgha
— Ross Ulbricht (@RealRossU) July 19, 2018
Ross Ulbricht – The Boy Most Likely To Succeed
If ever somebody seemed destined for greatness, it was Texan born Ross Ulbricht. As a child he joined the Boy Scouts, attaining the highest grading of all, that of an Eagle Scout. A natural leader, bright, charming and helpful, his classmates voted the young Ulbricht “Most Likely To Succeed.”
After graduating from high school he gained entry into the University of Texas on a full academic scholarship, gaining a bachelor’s degree in physics. Ulbricht then attended Pennsylvania State University, gaining a master’s degree in science and engineering.
At that point, the world truly was his “oyster”, and Ulbricht could have chosen a lucrative career in science, technology or engineering, or even channeled his natural charisma and people skills into a career in politics.
The Birth of “Silk Road”
However, the seeds for his eventual undoing had already been sown. During his time as a student, Ulbricht became interested in “Libertarian Economic Theory”, and the political philosophy of Ludwig von Mises.
After graduating from Penn State in 2009, Ulbricht had no trouble finding work, but soon began to find the jobs he had been training for unfulfilling. He decided to become an entrepreneur, but his early attempts at starting businesses failed.
It was then that he came up with the idea for Silk Road. Ulbricht justified himself (and no doubt eased his conscience) with statements such as:
“I want to use economic theory as a means to abolish the use of coercion and aggression amongst mankind . . . I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force.”
Using the Tor browser to access the Dark Web and hide his IP address, and using a relatively unknown cryptocurrency named Bitcoin for transactions, he figured he could sell people things that they couldn’t legally buy anywhere else, make a lot of money, and avoid detection.
Guns, Drugs & $25 Million Profit
And that’s exactly what Ulbricht did – for two years. From 2011 to 2013, he acted with virtual impunity, although ironically, he kept detailed notes on all of his business transactions. He certainly made money – the FBI estimate he earned $25 million during those two years.
Because of all of the traffic generated by Silk Road, it wasn’t long before it began to attract attention from the IRS, the DEA, and inevitably, the FBI. In October 2013, while visiting the San Francisco Public Library, he was arrested by Federal Officers. He was charged with money laundering, computer hacking, conspiracy to traffic narcotics, and procuring murder (later dropped.)
In October 2015, Ross Ulbricht, handsome, intelligent, likeable, holder of multiple degrees, was found guilty of all charges and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
The First 5 Years… And Counting…
For the past five years since his arrest in 2013, Ross Ulbricht has awoken every morning in a US federal penitentiary. Barring a miracle or an early death, that pattern will be repeated every day for the rest of his life, and at 34, that could add up to half a century or more.
During those initial five years, Ulbricht has exhausted all conventional avenues of appeal, most recently just last month. On June 28, the US Supreme Court announced that it won’t be reconsidering either the conviction or the life sentence handed down to Ulbricht.
And yet he still retains hope that despite being the creator and mastermind of the notorious “Silk Road”, the Dark Web’s one-stop-shop for drugs, weapons, murder-for-hire, even allegedly child pornography – he may still taste freedom in the not-too-distant future.
Until that moment arrives, Ulbricht is satisfied that with Twitter he now has a platform to transmit his thoughts to the public, and hopefully, influence more people into believing that far from being a criminal, he is a trail-blazer, a maverick, and deserves to be lionized, not imprisoned.