A San Francisco man isn’t the “Dread Pirate Roberts” who prosecutors say was the mastermind behind a secret website that brokered more than $1 billion in transactions for illegal drugs and services, a defense attorney said Wednesday.
Ross William Ulbricht is “not that person,” the lawyer, Josh Dratel, told reporters after his client’s first court appearance in New York. “He’s a regular person, a loyal friend … someone who has never been in trouble,” Dratel added. “We’re denying the charges against him.”
Ulbricht, 29, was arrested early last month on federal charges in New York. He is accused of hiding behind the “Dread Pirate Roberts” alias — an apparent reference to a swashbuckling character in “The Princess Bride,” a 1987 comedy film — while operating the Silk Road website.
The website allowed users to anonymously browse through nearly 13,000 listings under categories such as cannabis, psychedelics and stimulants before making purchases using the electronic currency Bitcoin.
Prosecutors announced earlier this month that they had seized about 174,000 bitcoins in connection with the Silk Road case, valued at more than $33.6 million.
Other categories on the website, such as erotica and fireworks, protected users with an encryption technique called onion routing, designed to make it “practically impossible to physically locate the computers hosting or accessing websites on the network,” court papers said.
On Oct. 1, authorities shut the site down and arrested the college-educated Ulbricht at a San Francisco public library. Ulbricht was online on his laptop allegedly chatting with a cooperating witness about Silk Road when FBI agents took him into custody, authorities said.
Since Ulbricht’s arrest, a new website has been established to help fund his defense. It accepts donations in bitcoins.
Ulbricht’s next hearing is scheduled Nov. 21, when his lawyer is expected to ask for him to be released for bail.