A billion dollar black market website allowed people to use Bitcoin digital currency to buy guns, drugs or hire assassins, according to a federal complaint released today.
The complaint charges Ross William Ulbricht, 29, with a battery of conspiracy crimes allegedly committed through his Silk Road website, which has been called the "Amazon of illegal drugs" or the "eBay of illicit substances."
Silk Road was described by the FBI in the criminal complaint as "the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet."
The site's illicit sales revenue totaled 9.5 million Bitcoins and commissions totaled over 600,000 Bitcoins, the complaint states. The value of the e-currency has fluctuated, however, authorities estimated those figures today are equivalent to $1.2 billion in sales and $80 million in commissions.
Until the announcement today, the person who ran the website was only known by the pseudonym "Dread Pirate Roberts," a reference to a mysterious pirate in the movie "Princess Bride."
Ulbricht is being charged with narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.
The complaint alleges that in March, Ulbricht solicited a Silk Road user to "execute a murder-for-hire of another Silk Road user who was threatening to release the identities of thousands of users of the site."
The website, which authorities said operated on an encrypted system that allowed users to access the internet anonymously, allegedly sold illegal drugs, including heroin, cocaine, LSD and methamphetamine.
The site also allegedly offered other illicit listings, including firearms, computer and ATM hacking lessons and assassins for hire.
The federal investigation alleged that during its two and a half years in operation, the site had been used by several thousand drug dealers, who in turn distributed the goods to "well over a hundred thousand buyers" and laundered hundreds of millions of dollars from the transactions.