American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road

American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road

by Nick Bilton
American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road

American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road

by Nick Bilton


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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. The unbelievable true story of the man who built a billion-dollar online drug empire from his bedroom—and almost got away with it
In 2011, a twenty-six-year-old libertarian programmer named Ross Ulbricht launched the ultimate free market: the Silk Road, a clandestine Web site hosted on the Dark Web where anyone could trade anything—drugs, hacking software, forged passports, counterfeit cash, poisons—free of the government’s watchful eye.
It wasn’t long before the media got wind of the new Web site where anyone—not just teenagers and weed dealers but terrorists and black hat hackers—could buy and sell contraband detection-free. Spurred by a public outcry, the federal government launched an epic two-year manhunt for the site’s elusive proprietor, with no leads, no witnesses, and no clear jurisdiction. All the investigators knew was that whoever was running the site called himself the Dread Pirate Roberts.
The Silk Road quickly ballooned into $1.2 billion enterprise, and Ross embraced his new role as kingpin. He enlisted a loyal crew of allies in high and low places, all as addicted to the danger and thrill of running an illegal marketplace as their customers were to the heroin they sold. Through his network he got wind of the target on his back and took drastic steps to protect himself—including ordering a hit on a former employee. As Ross made plans to disappear forever, the Feds raced against the clock to catch a man they weren’t sure even existed, searching for a needle in the haystack of the global Internet.

Drawing on exclusive access to key players and two billion digital words and images Ross left behind, Vanity Fair correspondent and New York Times bestselling author Nick Bilton offers a tale filled with twists and turns, lucky breaks and unbelievable close calls. It’s a story of the boy next door’s ambition gone criminal, spurred on by the clash between the new world of libertarian-leaning, anonymous, decentralized Web advocates and the old world of government control, order, and the rule of law. Filled with unforgettable characters and capped by an astonishing climax, American Kingpin might be dismissed as too outrageous for fiction. But it’s all too real.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143129028
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/29/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 68,194
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Nick Bilton is a special correspondent for Vanity Fair, where he writes about technology, business, and culture, and a contributor at CNBC. He was a columnist for The New York Times for almost a decade. His most recent book, Hatching Twitter, was a New York Times bestseller. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, son, and dog, Pixel.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Excerpted from "American Kingpin"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Nick Bilton.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xiii

Cast of Characters xv

Part I

1 The Pink Pill 3

2 Ross Ulbricht 13

3 Julia Vie 17

4 The Debate 21

5 Jared's Khat 24

6 The Bonfire 28

7 The Silk Road 33

8 Ross the Farmer 37

9 Opening Day of the Silk Road 42

10 What Goes Up Must Come Down 47

11 The Gawker Article 50

12 A Bull's-eye on My Back 54

13 Julia Tells Erica 58

14 What Have You Done?! 62

15 Jared and the Fifty-Ton Flamingo 65

16 From Austin to Australia 69

Part II

17 Carl Force's Tomorrow 75

18 Variety Jones and the Serpent 78

19 Jared Goes Shopping 83

20 The Dread Pirate Roberts 86

21 Carl Force Is Born Again 90

22 "O Captain, My Captain" 92

23 Ross, Hanged or Home 95

24 Carl, Eladio, and Nob 100

25 Jared's Chicago Versus Carl's Baltimore 103

26 The Mutiny 107

27 A Billion Dollars?! 112

28 The Aspiring Billionaire in Costa Rica 115

29 Variety Jones Goes to Scotland 119

30 The Armory Opens 123

31 Ross Silences Julia 127

Part III

32 Chris Tarhell, FBI 133

33 Ross Arrives in San Francisco 137

34 Chris in the Pit 142

35 Batten Down the Hatches! 145

36 Jared's Dead Ends 150

37 A Pirate in Dominica 153

38 Carl Likes DPR 159

39 Kidney for Sale! 165

40 The White House in Utah 171

41 Curtis Is Tortured 176

42 The First Murder 180

43 The FBI Joins the Hunt 184

44 Camping and the Ball 187

Part IV

45 Gary Alford, IRS 195

46 Life and Death on the Road 199

47 Gary's Big Change 203

48 Ross Goes Underground 207

49 Carl Switches Teams 213

50 A Parking Ticket on the Internet 217

51 Tarbell Finds a Mistake 221

52 The Fake IDs, Part One 225

53 The Deconfliction Meeting 231

54 Jared Becomes Cirrus 237

55 Julia Is Saved! Hallelujah! 242

56 The Fake IDs, Part Two 245

57 Onward to Federal Plaza 249

58 Julia Comes to San Francisco 254

59 I Am God 258

60 The Phone Call 262

61 The Good-bye Party 269

Part V

62 The Pink Sunset 275

63 Carla Sophia 279

64 FeLiNa 282

65 Arrested 290

66 The Laptop 293

67 Ross Locked Up 296

68 United States of America v. Ross William Ulbricht 300

69 To Catch a Pirate 304

70 Sentencing 307

71 The Plural of Mongoose 310

72 The Museum 313

73 The Others 316

Notes on Reporting 323

Acknowledgments 327

Bibliography 329

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