WASHINGTON - The man known as "Dread Pirate Roberts" saw the potential for his online black market for drugs and other illegal wares as a way to free the world from government "coercion."
Ross William Ulbricht, accused of being the ringleader of the nefarious bazaar called Silk Road seized by US authorities this week, held a physics degree, admired the Austrian school of economic thought and viewed his enterprise as "an anonymous" version of Amazon.
Court documents, his online profiles and at least one interview given in an anonymized chat showed Ulbricht as highly educated and motivated to use Silk Road as a force for change.
"At its core, Silk Road is a way to get around regulation from the state," he said in an August interview with Forbes, routed through the online anonymizer called TOR and Silk Road's messaging system.
"If they say we can't buy and sell certain things, we'll do it anyway and suffer no abuse from them. But the state tries to control nearly every aspect of our lives, not just drug use. Anywhere they do that, there is an opportunity to live your life as you see fit despite their efforts," he said in the interview, which identified him ony by his "Pirate" moniker.
Prosecutors say Silk Road has been used by thousands of drug dealers to distribute hundreds of kilograms of illegal wares to more than 100,000 buyers and to launder hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten profits, using the Bitcoin virtual currency.
The site, accessible only to those able to navigate the anonymizing software, sold drugs ranging from heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as hacker tools such as software for stealing passwords or logging keystrokes on people's machines.
Ulbricht's LinkedIn profile identified him as the CEO at an online bookseller called Good Wagon Books and showed he earned a physics degree at the University of Texas at Dallas and pursued graduate studies at Pennsylvania State University.
"I want to use economic theory as a means to abolish the use of coercion and aggression amongst mankind," he wrote on LinkedIn.
"Just as slavery has been abolished most everywhere, I believe violence, coercion and all forms of force by one person over another can come to an end... I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force."