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Jury Convicts Ross Ulbricht Of Operating Drug Marketplace


The man arrested for building Silk Road - an online marketplace best known for drugs - has been convicted. A jury found him guilty on all counts, as NPR's Aarti Shahani reports.

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: Ross Ulbricht has been convicted of drug trafficking, computer hacking, engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise and money laundering, among other things. The jury in the Southern District of New York took just three and a half hours to reach a verdict. The lesson, according to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is that criminals can't hide online. He said in a statement that the supposed anonymity of the dark web is not a protective shield from arrest and prosecution.

ORIN KERR: It's still a lot harder to get caught online than in the physical world.

SHAHANI: Orin Kerr is a former federal prosecutor and now a law professor at George Washington University.

KERR: In most computer crime cases, the big question is, who's behind the keyboard? How does the government show that the person who was typing online was an actual physical person in the courtroom? And in this case, the evidence they had at trial was overwhelming.

SHAHANI: Ulbricht took care to hide his identity. He used encryption on the hidden network Tor to avoid detection. But investigators pinpointed him as the ringleader, the man known as the Dread Pirate Roberts. FBI agents arrested him while he was at a public library in San Francisco. Ulbricht's team moved to suppress certain electronic evidence, like a Silk Road computer server in Iceland. But the government rejected that claim, and, Kerr says, the trial did not raise important, cutting-edge Internet law issues.

KERR: It was not a lot of high-tech issues involved in the court's ruling.

SHAHANI: Other drug-trafficking sites have popped up online, so that e-trade is not dead. Ulbricht faces life in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for mid-May, and he also awaits trial in Baltimore in a murder-to-hire plot. Aarti Shahani, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Aarti Shahani is a correspondent for NPR. Based in Silicon Valley, she covers the biggest companies on earth. She is also an author. Her first book, Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares (out Oct. 1, 2019), is about the extreme ups and downs her family encountered as immigrants in the U.S. Before journalism, Shahani was a community organizer in her native New York City, helping prisoners and families facing deportation. Even if it looks like she keeps changing careers, she's always doing the same thing: telling stories that matter.

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