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U.S. Supreme Court turns away Silk Road website founder's appeal

FILE PHOTO: The building of the U.S. Supreme Court is seen in Washington, U.S., June 26, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday refused to consider overturning the conviction and life sentence of Ross Ulbricht, the accused mastermind behind the Silk Road website for the sale of illegal drugs to customers worldwide that was shut down in 2013.

The justices turned down Ulbricht’s appeal in which he claimed that federal agents unlawfully monitored his internet activity to try to connect him to Silk Road’s operation, leading to his arrest and conviction. Ulbricht also argued that his sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole was unreasonable. Prosecutors said Ulbricht, 34, ran Silk Road under the alias Dread Pirate Roberts, a character from the 1987 movie “The Princess Bride” and the novel on which it was based.

About $183 million worth of illegal drugs were sold on Silk Road, and drugs distributed on the website were linked to at least six overdose deaths, prosecutors said.

There was also evidence that Ulbricht made arrangements for five murders for hire to protect Silk Road’s anonymity, although there is no evidence any of the murders actually occurred, according to court papers.

Jurors in Manhattan federal court convicted Ulbricht in 2015 on seven counts for helping facilitate drug sales using the virtual currency bitcoin. He was sentenced three months later.

The New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Ulbricht’s appeal last year.

Ulbricht appealed to the Supreme Court. The government’s use of devices to capture his internet routing data without obtaining a warrant violated his constitutional right against unlawful searches, Ulbricht argued.

Reporting by Andrew Chung; Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Will Dunham