November 2020: Ross William Ulbricht's Laptop
The FBI’s November Artifact of the Month is a laptop that belonged to an American cybercriminal named Ross William Ulbricht. Known online as Dread Pirate Roberts, Ulbricht ran a darknet market called the Silk Road from 2011 to 2013.
The Silk Road was a digital bazaar for illegal goods and services from drugs to guns to hitmen. Buyers and sellers could only visit the website through a browser called Tor—a network designed to conceal its users' locations.
The FBI worked with federal and state partners to find the Silk Road. On January 27, 2011, a tax agent discovered a post about the website on an online forum.
Eight months later, the agent saw that the same user had published a job posting. The posting directed interested parties to send their responses to an email account registered to Ulbricht.
Investigators traced a series of network records that they obtained under court warrants and eventually identified Ulbricht as a suspect.
The FBI arrested Ulbricht and seized his laptop on October 1, 2013. A judge sentenced Ulbricht to life in prison for drug trafficking, computer hacking, and money laundering in 2015.
The Silk Road generated approximately $1.2 billion in sales and $80 million in commissions. On November 3, 2020, law enforcement seized over $1 billion worth of digital currency from this case.