World News

End of 'Silk Road' as US Shuts Down Black Market Drug Website

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headquarters in Washington.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headquarters in Washington.
VOA News
U.S. authorities have put an end to an online black market for illegal drugs known as "Silk Road."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation shut down the website and on Tuesday arrested its suspected mastermind - 29-year-old Ross William Ulbricht - in San Francisco, California.

In a criminal complaint filed in federal court in New York, FBI agent Christopher Tarbell called Silk Road "the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet today."

Ulbricht, known online as "Dread Pirate Roberts," faces charges in New York of conspiracy to commit narcotics trafficking, computer hacking and money laundering. He is also charged in Maryland with trying to hire someone to murder a former employee.

Site was a multi-purpose criminal enterprise

Authorities say thousands of drug dealers used Silk Road to distribute "hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs," such as heroin and cocaine.

Investigators also say the online bazaar sold services, including tools for online hackers and, even, murder-for-hire.

The FBI says the site had nearly 1 million registered users from around the world. It ran on an anonymous network called Tor and used the digital currency known as Bitcoin, making users' activity almost impossible to trace.

Silk Road took in an estimated $1.2 billion since it started in 2011, with Ulbricht collecting at least $80 million in commission.

The FBI spent two years investigating the operation and ended up catching Ulbricht largely through his online activities. During the investigation, federal agents posed as buyers on the site, successfully ordering a range of illegal goods.

On his profile on the job networking site LinkedIn, Ulbricht, originally from Austin, Texas, said he holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from the University of Texas at Dallas and attended graduate school in Pennsylvania. He described himself online as a follower of libertarian economic philosophy.

Ulbright said one of his goals was ending what he called government "coercion and aggression" and that his activities were aimed at giving people a first-hand experience of "a world without the systemic use of force."

If convicted, Ulbright could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs