The arrest of Ross Ulbricht, the 29-year-old charged with running the online drug marketplace Silk Road, included the almost-too-cinematic mention of a murder-for-hire plot, in addition to the alleged narcotics trafficking, hacking, and money laundering. Ulbricht, in negotiating the hit, even had the gall to insist “not long ago, I had a clean hit done for $80k.” But details of that earlier attempted assassination are actually contained in a separate indictment filed in Maryland, which seems to indicate that Ulbricht really did believe he was the Internet’s Walter White. Unfortunately for him, it also reveals that he’s not exactly a criminal mastermind.
According to the charges, Ulbricht wanted to have a Silk Road employee killed after a drug deal gone bad resulted in the associate’s arrest. “Considering his arrest, I have to assume he will sing,” he wrote, approximating the underworld lingo. (He also wanted his Bitcoins back but was “more concerned about silencing him than getting that money.”)
Ulbricht allegedly agreed to pay $80,000 for the hit, half in advance and half when he had “proof” it was done:
On or about February 8, 2013, ROSS WILLIAM ULBRICHT, a/k/a “Dread Pirate Roberts,” a/k/a “DPR” communicated with the UC via the Internet, to discuss the murder of the Employee. The UC stated that the assassins were in place, but waiting for the Employee to be alone because the Employee lived with a daughter and wife. The UC further advised that once the Employee was alone, “they will go in and torture him to get your money[.]” and “after that is done, then they get him out of the house and then take he somewhere where they can kill him[.]” ROSS WILLIAM ULBRICHT, a/k/a “Dread Pirate Roberts,” a/k/a “DPR” replied, “just let me know when it’s done. [W]e are still a go.”
But he was dealing with an undercover agent the whole time, and the authorities fooled him with staged images (once again, like Breaking Bad):
On or about February 21, 2013, ROSS WILLIAM ULBRICHT, a/k/a “Dread Pirate Roberts,” a/k/a “DPR” communicated with the UC via the Internet, to discuss the murder of the Employee. The UC told ROSS WILLIAM ULBRICHT, a/k/a “Dread Pirate Roberts,” a/k/a “DPR” that the Employee “died of asphyxiation/heart rupture” while being tortured. Via the Internet, the UC transmitted a staged photograph that purported to depict the Employee’s dead body.
Ulbricht, upon receipt of the fake picture, then wired the other $40,000. “I’m pissed I had to kill him but what’s done is done,” he said, according to the indictment. “I just can’t believe he was so stupid … I just wish more people had some integrity.”