In 2015, there has been no bigger story than the conviction and sentencing of Silk Road’s creator Ross Ulbricht to life in prison last month. Many in the bitcoin community have little idea of what he was convicted of, or the sentences for these offenses. With the trial now concluded, the sentencing details for this landmark case have been revealed. This article will provide the concise reference guide, with the official court documents, and a summary of where Ross Ulbricht goes from here. To see the entire official court file, click here.
The case number is 1:14-cr-00068-KBF and was adjudicated in the Southern District of New York, which is code for Manhattan, New York City. The five crimes Ross Ulbricht was convicted of, for all of which he pled “not guilty,” include:
- Aiding and Abetting Distribution of Drugs
- Continuing Criminal Enterprise
- Computer hacking Conspiracy
- Fraud with Identification Documents
- Money Laundering Conspiracy
The prison sentence will be administered as follows:
The defendant is hereby committed to the custody of the United States Bureau of Prisons for a total term of: Counts Two (2) and Four (4) (“Aiding and Abetting Distribution of Drugs” and “Continuing Criminal Enterprise”): Life to run concurrently (meaning at the same time, not one life sentence after another); Count (5) (“Computer hacking Conspiracy”): Five (5) years to run concurrently; Count Six (6) (“Fraud With Identification Documents”): Fifteen (15) years to run concurrently; Count Seven (7) (“Money Laundering Conspiracy): Twenty (20) Years to run concurrently.
However, the defendant may have some small influence over where their sentence is carried out, as far as what prison facility. On page 4, it is “respectfully recommended” that Ulbricht’s sentence be carried out at FCI Petersburg I in Virginia if he is not deemed to be a “public safety factor” risk.
It appears FCI Petersburg I is a lower security prison. If he is deemed a “public safety factor” risk, it is again “respectfully recommended” that Ulbricht serves his sentence in USP Tuscon in Arizona or USP Coleman II “as a second choice,” in Florida. This again indicates that Ulbricht has some influence over the location.
Terms for a “supervised release” are covered, but considered the fact that he received two life sentences, outlining those terms here seems pointless.
The financial penalty to Ulbricht is spelled out beginning on page 7. A US$500 assessment, not fine or restitution is owed, but no payee is listed. This “lump sum” is due “immediately” and is payable to the clerk of the court.
Apparently, the U.S. Government believes he has quite a large sum of money hidden away. On page 8, the entire page simply states “Forfeiture in the amount of US$183,961,921.00 is Ordered. Not a fine or assessment, but “forfeiture.”
It appears all the bluster about “Dread Pirate Roberts” and his intent to kill others did not wash, legally, in this trial, again making this sentence seem ridiculous in its severity. The only crime that was claimed to have been committed in this trial that may even come close to justifying any life sentence might be “Money Laundering Conspiracy,” and that was only a twenty year term.
Draw your own conclusions, but I’d advise anyone who wants more details on how this case was handled to seek out Alex Winter’s “Deep Web” movie, narrated by Keanu Reeves, for more information. Coincidentally, it was released on May 31, just two days after Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison. Winter was present during the trial and gives a first-hand account of what actually happened here.