Silk Road defendant deemed flight risk, denied bail

Ross William Ulbricht will remain behind bars as he awaits trial for allegedly running the underground online drugs marketplace

A New York federal court denied bail on Thursday to Ross William Ulbricht, the 29-year-old accused of running the Silk Road underground marketplace, deeming him a flight risk and a danger to the community.

Ulbricht's friends and family had agreed to post US$1 million in assets and co-sign a bail bond. Seventy letters in support of Ulbricht were presented, and he had also agreed to electronic monitoring, said his attorney, Joshua L. Dratel, in a phone interview.

But Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis rejected the bail application based in part on allegations that Ulbricht tried to commission six murders over four months earlier this year.

"We're disappointed because we felt we had presented a sufficient package for bail," Dratel said.

Federal prosecutors showed the court a photograph of nine driver's licenses with what appeared to be Ulbricht's mug shot, some with a beard. Six of the licenses were from U.S. states, and one each from Canada, Australia and the U.K.

Ulbricht also allegedly filed an application with the Commonwealth of Dominica, a country of 70,000 people in the Caribbean, for "economic" citizenship, which costs around $75,000, according to another prosecutor's document.

He was arrested on Oct. 1 in a San Francisco public library while allegedly logged into the Silk Road website under "DPR," a shortened version of the nickname "Dread Pirate Roberts," according to the prosecutor's letter arguing against bail.

Photos of the laptop's screen submitted in court showed an instant messaging program running using a nickname "dread" and a Silk Road control panel for an account holding more than 50,000 bitcoins.

The Silk Road marketplace website was configured to use a privacy feature called TOR that allowed buyers and sellers to transact anonymously using the virtual currency Bitcoin.

The Silk Road took a cut of transactions, netting as much as 144,000 bitcoins from January 2011 until the site was shut down in September. The bitcoins were worth more than $20 million at the time of Ulbricht's arrest, according to prosecutors.

Ulbricht is charged in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York with narcotics trafficking, computer hacking and money laundering conspiracies.

A grand jury in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland also indicted Ulbricht on charges of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, attempted witness murder, use of interstate commerce facilities in commission of murder-for-hire and aiding and abetting.

Ulbricht remains in pre-trial confinement at Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center. Dratel said he expects New York prosecutors to issue an indictment, but no court date has been scheduled.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

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