The 31-year-old founder of illicit online drug market Silk Road has been sentenced to life in prison by a New York district court.
Ross Ulbricht, a physics graduate, broke into tears as the parents of victims who were killed by narcotics bought on the site spoke to the court.
“I never wanted that to happen,” he said, before Judge Katherine Forrest handed him the maximum sentence Friday. “I wish I could go back and convince myself to take a different path.”
Ulbricht, whose online alias was Dread Pirate Roberts, was given five sentences in all for each of the fatal overdoses linked to Silk Road, two of which were for life. He will not be able to seek parole.
The site has been likened to online emporium Amazon, for drugs, and protected buyers’ and sellers’ identifies using the Tor network; software developed by the U.S. navy to allow for anonymous communication.
In 2013 the secret site listed 10,000 items for sale, 7,000 of which were drugs including cannabis, MDMA and heroin, generating US$213.9 million in sales before being taken down.
Furthermore, prosecutors said the page diverged into other illegal fields, such as murderers for hire.
“The stated purpose (of Silk Road) was to be beyond the law. In the world you created over time, democracy didn’t exist. You were captain of the ship ... You made your own laws,” Forrest told Ulbricht as she read the sentence, ignoring his pleas to “leave a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Ulbricht was convicted in February of a broad range of charges, including maintaining an “ongoing criminal enterprise,” putting him in the same field as mob leaders.One parent whose 25-year-old son died from a heroin overdose with drugs he obtained from the website said, “I strongly believe that my son would be here today if Silk Road had never existed.”