February 4, 2015 / 5:15 PM / 5 years ago

Jury begins deliberating in trial of suspected Silk Road mastermind

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jury deliberations began on Wednesday in the trial of the suspected mastermind behind the underground website Silk Road, who prosecutors say orchestrated a scheme that enabled around $200 million of anonymous online drug sales using bitcoins.

A federal judge in Manhattan dispatched the six men and six women on the jury to consider the fate of Ross Ulbricht, 30, who faces seven counts including narcotics trafficking.

Ulbricht, who prosecutors say operated the website under the alias Dread Pirate Roberts, faces up to life in prison if convicted.

Silk Road operated from at least January 2011 to October 2013, when authorities seized the website and arrested Ulbricht at a public library in San Francisco.

By the time it was shut down, Silk Road had generated nearly $213.9 million in sales and $13.2 million in commissions, prosecutors said.

Ulbricht conceded that he created Silk Road, with his lawyer, Joshua Dratel, saying he intended it as a “freewheeling, free market site” where anything except a few harmful items could be sold.

But Dratel said Ulbricht’s “economic experiment” eventually became too stressful for him, so he handed it off to others. He was lured back toward its end, he said, becoming the “fall guy” for its true operators.

The case is U.S. v. Ulbricht, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-06919.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Tom Brown

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