| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Feb 4 U.S. prosecutors unveiled a new
charge on Tuesday against the man they accuse of creating the
underground online drugs marketplace known as Silk Road,
potentially adding years of prison time if he were convicted.
In an indictment filed in federal court in Manhattan,
29-year-old Ross Ulbricht is charged with engaging in a
continuing criminal enterprise by acting as organizer and
supervisor of at least five others who were violating a law
against drug trafficking. The new charge carries a mandatory
minimum sentence of 20 years in prison if he is convicted.
Ulbricht was also charged with of one count each of money
laundering, computer hacking and drug trafficking, charges that
were first laid out in a criminal complaint last October.
Prosecutors accused Ulbricht of involvement in Silk Road,
which they said sold drugs and criminal services in exchange for
Bitcoins, a digital currency that is coming under increasing
scrutiny by authorities.
"It's the same factual allegations packaged in a statutory
wrapper designed to increase the penalties," Ulbricht's lawyer
Joshua Dratel said on Tuesday.
Ulbricht was arrested Oct. 1 in a public library in San
Francisco, shortly after authorities shut down the web site Silk
Road, a marketplace vendors and customers accessed using an
encryption program that strips internet users' identifying
information to allow them to communicate anonymously with each
Ulbricht has maintained his innocence through statements by
his lawyer. Ulbricht is expected to enter a not guilty plea when
he makes an initial court appearance scheduled for Friday to
answer the indictment.
The indictment by a grand jury marks the end of an initial
period during which Ulbricht could have talked with prosecutors
and made a deal to soften any sentence rendered against him by
pleading guilty and cooperating.