A man accused of running a billion-dollar online drug market agreed in federal court in San Francisco today to be transferred to New York to face conspiracy charges there.
After a lawyer for Ross Ulbricht, 29, told U.S Magistrate Joseph Spero that Ulbricht admits his identity, Spero ordered him to be moved to New York in the custody of U.S. marshals.
Ulbricht, who allegedly ran a website called Silk Road, is charged in a federal criminal complaint in U.S. District Court in Manhattan with three counts of conspiring to distribute illegal narcotics, hack computers and launder money.
The FBI has alleged the website conducted $1.2 billion in sales of drugs, forged identity documents and other illegal items over the course of two-plus years.
Ulbricht, who was wearing jail garb and leg shackles, was arrested Oct. 1 in the Glen Park branch library in San Francisco and has been in custody since then.
He said nothing during the brief hearing today.
Assistant Federal Public Defender Brandon LeBlanc also told the magistrate that Ulbricht agreed to waive a detention hearing, which would have determined whether prosecutors can continue to have him held without bail. Ulbricht has the right to seek such a hearing when he arrives in New York.
The defense attorney also told Spero, “We disavow the aliases” alleged in the criminal complaint.
The document claims that Ulbricht used the aliases of Dread Pirate Roberts, DPR and Silk Road when operating the website.
Outside of court, LeBlanc said, “All we did today is that we admitted his actual name is Ross William Ulbricht. That was the issue before the court.”
The defense attorney said he expected Ulbricht to be transferred “immediately” but said he could not say how soon that will be.
Ulbricht is separately accused in a federal indictment in U.S. District Court in Baltimore with a similar count of narcotics trafficking conspiracy and additional charges of soliciting an $80,000 murder-for-hire of a former Silk Road employee.
The Baltimore indictment was not mentioned at today’s hearing. The murder never happened because the supposed hit man allegedly hired by Ulbricht online in January was an undercover FBI agent.
Ulbricht allegedly told the agent he believed the former employee, who had been arrested, had stolen money from Silk Road users and was about to reveal information about the website.
Ulbricht is also charged in the complaint in New York with soliciting another murder-for-hire for $150,000 in March. That alleged murder attempt is charged as an act that furthered the drug conspiracy and not as a separate criminal count.
The complaint alleges that in that incident, Ulbricht solicited an unidentified Silk Road user to kill a Canadian drug dealer who was threatening to release the identities of thousands of other Silk Road sellers and buyers unless Ulbricht gave him $500,000.
The FBI has said that Canadian authorities have found no evidence that murder occurred.
In the San Francisco proceedings, LeBlanc was appointed by the court to represent Ulbricht after the suspect said he couldn’t afford a lawyer.
Because Ulbricht has now agreed to be transferred immediately, he never filed a financial affidavit in San Francisco that would have explained why he believes he needs a government-paid attorney.
The FBI has alleged that Ulbricht and his small staff received $80 million in commissions from the $1.2 billion in business on the website.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News