Future Tense

Silk Road Founder Ross Ulbricht Sentenced to Life in Prison

Ross Ulbricht supporters on the first day of jury selection for his trial in January.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the anonymous online black market Silk Road who was found guilty in February of seven counts related to computer hacking, conspiracy, narcotics, and money-laundering, was sentenced to life in prison on Friday. He is 31.

Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan told Ulbricht that “what you did in connection with Silk Road was terribly destructive to our social fabric,” according to the New York Times. Ulbricht was facing a minimum sentence of 20 years for one of his counts.


Founded in 2011 and operated until a federal raid in 2013, Silk Road facilitated more than 1.5 million transactions between more than 100,000 accounts that were buying and thousands of accounts that were selling. Most goods on the site were illegal, like heroin and LSD. Ulbricht maintains that he founded Silk Road for philosophical reasons: He wanted to create a place where people could sell anything and wasn’t interested in making money himself.

Those who spoke against Ulbricht before his sentencing included the father of a man who died taking drugs bought on Silk Road. Wired reports that Ulbricht’s legal team is planning an appeal.