The FBI raided the alleged online drug market Silk Road and arrested its owner, Ross William Ulbricht, also known as “Dread Pirate Roberts,” according to reports on Wednesday.
The BBC reported that he was arrested in San Francisco.
Ulbricht was charged with narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy.
A PDF of the Justice Department complaint against Ulbricht was posted on Krebsonsecurity.com.
Ulbricht also is alleged to have taken part in a “murder-for-hire” plan when he called on a Silk Road user to kill another user who was threatening to release the names of users on the website, according to the BBC.
The FBI also obtained around $3.6 million worth of bitcoins. He was arrested without incident, an FBI spokesperson said.
“The complainant further alleges, in part, that the Silk Road Hidden Website is designed to facilitate the illicit commerce hosted on the site by providing anonymity to its users, by operating on what is known as The Onion Router or Tor network, as part of the internet designed to make it practically impossible to physically locate the computers hosting or accessing websites on the network, and by requiring all transactions to be paid in bitcoins, an electronic currency designed to be as anonymous as cash,” the Justice Department said, according to the BBC.
“Silk Road has emerged as the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet today,” FBI agent Christopher Tarbell said in the complaint, according to Reuters. He alleged that the site was used by “several thousand drug dealers” to sell off “hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs.”
Court papers said the website had nearly 13,000 listings with categories like “Psychedelics” and “Stimulants.” Undercover investigators in New York bought cocaine, heroin, LSD and other drugs from the website, it said, according to AP.
A Google+ account belonging to a man named Ross Ulbricht includes a posting: “Anybody know someone that works for UPS, FedEX, or DHL?” He also posted a link to a dubstep video.
According to NY Magazine, his LinkedIn account was referenced in the federal complaint against him and he appears to have released a book, “Europium Oxide Thin-Films: Exploration of Epitaxy and Strain,” documenting his work with “thin crystals.”
Silk Road, accessible via the anonymizing Tor network, is accused of allowing people to anonymously purchase drugs and weapons, usually using the digital bitcoin currency.
The arrest comes just weeks after the owner of the Freedom Hosting server was arrested in Ireland, accused of distributing child pornography, also via Tor.
Silk Road and other wesbites including the “Hidden Wikipedia” are on the “Deep Web” or “Darknet,” which are hidden from normal browsers and are not indexed on search engines. Tor can access these sites, which have been used by dissidents and human rights activists in China and Iran to spread information. However, they have become hubs for illegal activities, including child pornography, weapons smuggling, and drugs.