The American man convicted of masterminding the criminal website Silk Road was sentenced in a New York court Friday to life in prison over the conspiracy that sold $200 million in drugs to customers worldwide.
Ross Ulbricht was found guilty in February by a jury on seven counts of narcotics trafficking, criminal enterprise, computer hacking and money laundering.
The highly educated 31-year-old, whose devoted parents have followed every twist and turn in the case, displayed no emotion as he stood in dark prison scrubs to hear his fate from Federal Judge Katherine Forrest.
She sentenced Ulbricht, who used the online alias of “Dread Pirate Roberts” and commissioned five contract killings, to two life sentences for narcotics distribution and criminal enterprise.
Forrest also imposed maximum terms of five, 15 and 20 years for separate hacking, trafficking in false documents and money laundering convictions, to be served concurrently.
In the public gallery, his mother put her head in her hands as the double life sentence was read out.
It was a stunning fall from a privileged life for the convict, who the government said made buying heroin, cocaine and crystal meth as easy as online shopping from eBay and Amazon.
Forrest told Ulbricht that he would not be eligible for parole, but that she would recommend he serve his sentence in New York until his appeal is completed.
“You should serve your life in prison,” she told him.
“What you did in Silk Road was terribly destructive to our social fabric,” said the judge, calling him a criminal whose graduate school education made his actions less explicable than a common drug dealer.
Forrest said the court also sought the forfeiture of more than $183.9 million in Silk Road drugs profits.
His four-week trial was considered a landmark case in the murky world of online crime and government surveillance.
Forrest said his sentence had to serve as a general deterrent, reflect the severity of his crimes and protect society.
The sentence was the maximum possible under federal law on each count — tougher even than the lengthy sentence sought by government prosecutors.
The parents of a 25-year-old Boston man and a 16-year-old Australian schoolboy, who both died after ingesting drugs obtained from Silk Road, spoke of the devastation of their loss.
Ulbricht then sniffed and sobbed his way through a self-pitying statement before the court, telling Forrest that he wanted to “tell you about myself from my perspective.”
He denied the prosecution’s assessment that he was greedy and vain man who displayed sociopath behavior.
“Given the chance I would never break the law again,” he said.
“I’m not a self-centered, sociopathic person… I just made some very serious mistakes.”
In a letter to Forrest last week, Ulbricht had begged to be allowed to live out his old age in freedom.
“Please leave a small light at the end of the tunnel,” he wrote, pleading for “a chance to redeem myself in the free world before I meet my maker.”
Prosecutors say Ulbricht set up a massive narcotics-trafficking enterprise that resulted in at least six drug-related deaths and amassed him more than $13 million in commissions.
He also paid more than half a million dollars to commission five contract murders to protect his criminal business, believing they had been carried out, although no bodies were ever found.
Ulbricht created the site in January 2011, and owned and operated the underground site until it was shut down by the FBI in October 2013, when he was arrested in a San Francisco library.
The government called it “the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet,” that allowed everyone with a computer and a postal address to buy drugs anonymously.
Vendors were believed to be located in more than 10 countries in North America and Europe, including Britain, Spain and France.