Ross Ulbricht, the alleged mastermind behind Silk Road — the online marketplace that used bitcoin for transactions — is on trial this week. Ulbricht’s defense: he was set up by the real Dread Pirate Roberts or DPR, the site’s mysterious founder and administrator.
Who would that be? Mark Karpeles, according to the defense. That’s the former owner of Mt. Gox, a bitcoin exchange that went bankrupt in 2014.
Sarah Jeong, a tech policy journalist who has been writing about the case, says the defense is leaning on the fact that Karpeles had been a prime suspect at one point. She also says Jared Der-Yeghiayan, the agent from the Department of Homeland Security who arrested Ulbricht, is the one who suspected Karpeles.
Ulbricht doesn’t deny that he was involved. In fact, when he was arrested, he was logged into Silk Road on the account “Mastermind,” which showed the site’s finances in detail. But the defense is now claiming Ulbricht founded the site only as “an economic experiment,” and that he later “handed it over to others” who lured him back to take the fall.
“The timeline is very odd,” says Jeong. “The same DHS agent who helped arrest Ross, who was undercover as a Silk Road moderator … less than two months before he participated in arresting Ross Ulbricht, he swore in an affidavit that he had probable cause to believe that Mark Karpeles, the CEO of Mt. Gox was Dread Pirate Roberts. That is really strange.”
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