Silk Road Mastermind Ross Ulbricht Sentenced to Life in Prison

by Julianne Pepitone /  / Updated 

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Ross Ulbricht, the convicted operator of the underground online black market Silk Road, was sentenced Friday to life in prison, according to WNBC.

Ulbricht received the maximum sentence he faced for seven federal convictions on counts including narcotics trafficking, computer hacking, running a criminal enterprise and money laundering.

Ulbricht, 31, had been convicted in February 2015 on all counts he faced for his role in operating Silk Road, on which illegal drugs, weapons, IDs and other items were sold. At that time, the New York City jury of six men and six women took only a few hours to deliberate and convict Ulbricht on all charges.

Related: Accused Silk Road Operator Ross Ulbricht Convicted on All Counts

On Friday, reporters stationed at the Manhattan courthouse reported some family members of Silk Road customers who died of drug overdoses gave statements before the sentencing.

But U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest was unmoved by Ulbricht's tears and pre-sentencing plea for leniency.

"It was a carefully planned life's work. It was your opus," Forrest said, according to the Associated Press. "You are no better a person than any other drug dealer."

Forrest also ordered Ulbricht to pay the government more than $183 million, the value investigators placed on the illegal drug and identification transactions made on Silk Road.

Ulbricht, who used the screen name "Dread Pirate Roberts" on Silk Road, has denied investigators' accusations that he ran the marketplace from 2011 to 2013. He claimed he started Silk Road but handed it over to another operator a few months later, and that he was lured back to the marketplace and set up to take the legal fall shortly before he was arrested in October 2013.

But federal investigators said Ulbricht was "caught red handed" logging into an administrative account for Silk Road, and they built a case involving evidence from Ulbricht's laptop, the tracing of bitcoin exchanges and more.

In a strange twist, two federal agents who were investigating Silk Road were themselves charged in March 2015 with several counts related to allegedly stealing $800,000 in bitcoin and compromising the investigation.

Related: Federal Agents Accused of Stealing Bitcoins During Silk Road Investigation

The Federal Bureau of Investigation shut down Silk Road in 2013, and a "Silk Road 2.0" quickly sprung up. Federal officials arrested and charged Blake Benthall in November 2014 with allegedly operating Silk Road 2.0.

-- WNBC's Marc Santia contributed reporting.

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