American 2021 Kingpin: high quality The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road sale

American 2021 Kingpin: high quality The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road sale

American 2021 Kingpin: high quality The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road sale
American 2021 Kingpin: high quality The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road sale__left

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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.

Review

“An astonishingly well-researched narrative… Bilton''s storytelling bears not so much as a trace of fat; the book he''s conjured is so sharp and bright that it can be whipped through in the airport lounge before the flight takes off."
—The Globe and Mail

"Unbelievably riveting."
—CASEY NEISTAT

“I dare you not to read this book in one sitting. Masterfully reported and written, Bilton’s book drops you hard into the dark heart of the most famous Internet crime to date. A first-rate thrill.”
—JOSHUA COOPER RAMO, author of The Seventh Sense
 
“Nick Bilton has issued a fantastic modern true-crime thriller. The book moves at a stunning pace while packed full of exquisite reporting and detail. It delivers a vivid pic­ture of what happens when genius, ambition, and depravity collide, as well as a study on the complex interplay between good and evil.”
—ASHLEE VANCE, author of Elon Musk
 
“Engrossing, addictive, suspenseful, riveting—this book hooked me on page one and I could not put it down. American Kingpin is the best thing I’ve read in ages. I can’t recommend it highly enough.”
—DAN LYONS, author of Disrupted
 
“In American Kingpin, Nick Bilton again proves why he’s one of tech’s best storytellers with a stunningly researched and very scary portrait of the creator of a marketplace gone mad, and the oddly uncoordinated officers who took him down.”
—STEVEN LEVY, author of Hackers and In the Plex
 
“You’ll never forget Bilton’s portrait of the brilliant and brazen Ross Ulbricht, even after you sacrifice sleep in a sprint to the final pages and to see justice served.”
—BRAD STONE, author of The Everything Store and The Upstarts
 
“A rollicking, deftly reported tale of the Dark Web. I couldn’t put it down.”
—CLIVE THOMPSON, author of Smarter Than You Think
 
“Bilton’s investigation of the Silk Road is dramatic and, at times, nearly unbelievable. It puts your favorite thriller novels to shame.”
—STEVEN PRESSFIELD, author of Gates of Fire
 
“Nick Bilton is the only writer who could tell this suspenseful story. American Kingpin is engrossing at every turn, right up to its pulse-racing ending.”
—ADAM LASHINSKY, author of Wild Ride
 
“American Kingpin is both a staggering feat of investigative journalism and a triumph of edge-of-your-seat storytelling. This is what true-crime writing should be.”
—BRYAN BURROUGH, author of Days of Rage

"A fast-paced, readable true-crime tale that frames the likely future of the underground economy."
—Kirkus Reviews

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.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

The Pink Pill

Pink.

A tiny pink pill with an etching of a squirrel on either side. Jared Der-Yeghiayan couldn''t take his eyes off it.

He stood in a windowless mail room, the Department of Homeland Security badge hanging from his neck illuminated by pulsing halogen lights above. Every thirty seconds, the sound of airplanes rumbled through the air outside. Jared looked like an adolescent with his oversize clothes, buzz cut, and guileless hazel eyes. "We''ve started to get a couple of them a week," his colleague Mike, a burly Customs and Border Protection officer, said as he handed Jared the envelope that the pill had arrived in.

The envelope was white and square, with a single perforated stamp affixed to the top right corner. heir offen, read the inside flap. Below those two words was the English translation, open here. The recipient''s name, typed in black, read david. The package was on its way to a house on West Newport Avenue in Chicago.

It was exactly what Jared had been waiting for since June.

The plane carrying the envelope, KLM flight 611, had landed at Chicago O''Hare International Airport a few hours earlier after a four-thousand-mile journey from the Netherlands. As weary passengers stood up and stretched their arms and legs, baggage handlers twenty feet below them unloaded cargo from the belly of the Boeing 747. Suitcases of all shapes and sizes were ushered in one direction; forty or so blue buckets filled with international mail were sent in another.

Those blue tubs-nicknamed "scrubs" by airport employees-were driven across the tarmac to a prodigious mail storage and sorting facility fifteen minutes away. Their contents-letters to loved ones, business documents, and that white square envelope containing the peculiar pink pill-would pass through that building, past customs, and into the vast logistical arteries of the United States Postal Service. If everything went according to plan, as it did most of the time, that small envelope of drugs, and many like it, would just slip by unnoticed.

But not today. Not on October 5, 2011.

By late afternoon, Mike Weinthaler, a Customs and Border Protection officer, had begun his daily ritual of clocking in for work, pouring an atrocious cup of coffee, and popping open the blue scrubs to look for anything out of the ordinary: a package with a small bulge; return addresses that looked fake; the sound of plastic wrap inside a paper envelope; anything fishy at all. There was nothing scientific about it. There were no high-tech scanners or swabs testing for residue. After a decade in which e-mail had largely outmoded physical mail, the postal service''s budgets had been decimated. Fancy technology was a rare treat allocated to the investigation of large packages. And Chicago''s mail-sniffing dogs-Shadow and Rogue-came through only a couple of times a month. Instead, whoever was hunting through the scrubs simply reached a hand inside and followed their instincts.

Thirty minutes into his rummaging routine, the white square envelope caught Mike''s eye.

He held it up to the lights overhead. The address on the front had been typed, not written by hand. That was generally a telltale sign for customs agents that something was amiss. As Mike knew, addresses are usually typed only for business mail, not personal. The package also had a slight bump, which was suspicious, considering it came from the Netherlands. Mike grabbed an evidence folder and a 6051S seizure form that would allow him to legally open the envelope. Placing a knife in its belly, he gutted it like a fish, dumping out a plastic baggie with a tiny pink pill of ecstasy inside.

Mike had been working in the customs unit for two years and was fully aware that under normal circumstances no one in the federal government would give a flying fuck about one lousy pill. There was, as every government employee in Chicago knew, an unspoken rule that drug agents didn''t take on cases that involved fewer than a thousand pills. The U.S. Attorney''s Office would scoff at such an investigation. There were bigger busts to pursue.

But Mike had been given clear instructions by someone who was waiting for a pill just like this: Homeland Security agent Jared Der-Yeghiayan.

A few months prior, Mike had come across a similar piece of illicit mail on its way to Minneapolis. He had picked up the phone and called the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement''s Homeland Security Investigations office at the airport, half expecting that he would be laughed at or hung up on, as usual. But the HSI agent who answered was surprisingly receptive. At the time, Jared had been on the job for only two months and frankly didn''t know any better. "I can''t fly to Minneapolis to talk to a guy about one single pill," Jared said. "So call me if you get something in my area, in Chicago. Then I can go over there and do a knock-and-talk."

Four months later, when Mike found a pill destined for Chicago, Jared rushed over to see it. "Why do you want this?" Mike asked Jared. "All the other agents say no; people have been saying no to meth and heroin for years. And yet you want this one little pill?"

Jared knew very well that this could be nothing. Maybe an idiot kid in the Netherlands was sending a few friends some MDMA. But he also wondered why one single pill had been sent on such a long journey and how the people who mailed such small packages of drugs knew the recipients they were sending them to. Something about it felt peculiar. "There may be something else to this," Jared told Mike as he took the envelope. He would need it to show his "babysitter."

Every newbie agent in HSI was assigned one-a training officer-during their first year. A more seasoned officer who knew the drill, made sure you didn''t get into too much trouble, and often made you feel like a total piece of shit. Every morning Jared had to call his chaperone and tell him what he was working on that day. The only thing that made it different from preschool was that you got to carry a gun.

Unsurprisingly, Jared''s training officer saw no urgency to a single pill, and it was a week before he even consented to accompany his younger colleague on the "knock-and-talk"-to knock on the door of the person who was supposed to receive the pill and, hopefully, talk with them.

That day, as Jared''s government-issued Crown Victoria zigzagged through the North Side of Chicago, the small Rubik''s Cube that hung from his key chain swung back and forth in the opposite direction. His car radio was dialed into sports: the Cubs and White Sox had been eliminated from contention, but the Bears were preparing for an in-division contest against the Lions. Amid the crackle of the radio, he turned onto West Newport Avenue, a long row of two-story limestone buildings split into a dyad of top- and bottom-floor apartments. Jared knew this working-class neighborhood well. He''d followed the baseball games at nearby Wrigley Field when he was a kid. But now this was Hipsterville, full of fancy coffee shops, chic restaurants, and, as Jared was now learning, people who had drugs mailed to their houses from the Netherlands.

He was fully aware how ridiculous he might look in the eyes of his grizzled training officer. They were in one of the city''s safest precincts to question someone about a single pill of ecstasy. But Jared didn''t care what his supervisor thought; he had a hunch that this was bigger than one little pill. He just didn''t know how big-yet.

He found the address and pulled over, his chaperone close behind. They wandered up the steps and Jared tapped on the glass door of apartment number 1. This was the easy part, knocking. Getting someone to talk would be a whole different challenge. The recipient of the envelope could easily deny that the package was his. Then it was game over.

After twenty seconds the door lock clicked open and a young, skinny man dressed in jeans and a T-shirt peered outside. Jared flashed his badge, introduced himself as an HSI agent, and asked if David, the man whose name was typed on the white envelope, was home.

"He''s at work right now," the young man replied, opening the door further. "But I''m his roommate."

"Can we come inside?" Jared asked. "We''d just like to ask you a few questions." The roommate obliged, stepping to the side as they walked toward the kitchen. As Jared took a seat he pulled out a pen and notepad and asked, "Does your roommate get a lot of packages in the mail?"

"Yeah, from time to time."

"Well," Jared said as he glanced at his training officer, who sat silently in the corner with his arms crossed, "we found this package that was addressed to him and it had some drugs inside."

"Yeah, I know about that," the roommate replied nonchalantly. Jared was taken aback by how casually the young man admitted to receiving drugs in the mail, but he continued with the questions, asking where they got these drugs from.

"From a Web site."

"What''s the Web site?"

"The Silk Road," the roommate said.

Jared stared back, confused. The Silk Road? He had never heard of it before. In fact, Jared had never heard of any Web site where you could buy drugs online, and he wondered if he was just being a clueless newbie, or if this was how you bought drugs in Hipsterville these days.

"What''s the Silk Road?" Jared asked, trying not to sound too oblivious but sounding completely oblivious.

And with the velocity of those descending airliners at O''Hare, the skinny roommate began a fast-paced explanation of the Silk Road Web site. "You can buy any drug imaginable on the site," he said, some of which he had tried with his roommate-including marijuana, meth, and the little pink ecstasy pills that had been arriving, week after week, on KLM flight 611. As Jared scribbled in his notepad, the roommate continued to talk at a swift clip. You paid for the drugs with this online digital currency called Bitcoin, and you shopped using an anonymous Web browser called Tor. Anyone could go onto the Silk Road Web site, select from the hundreds of different kinds of drugs they offered and pay for them, and a few days later the United States Postal Service would drop them into your mailbox. Then you sniffed, inhaled, swallowed, drank, or injected whatever came your way. "It''s like Amazon.com," the roommate said, "but for drugs."

Jared was amazed and slightly skeptical that this virtual marketplace existed in the darkest recesses of the Web. It will be shut down within a week, he thought. After a few more questions, he thanked the roommate for his time and left with his colleague, who hadn''t said a word.

"Have you ever heard of this Silk Road?" Jared asked his training officer as they walked back to their respective cruisers.

"Oh yeah," he replied dispassionately. "Everyone''s heard of Silk Road. There must be hundreds of open cases on it."

Jared, somewhat embarrassed at having admitted he knew nothing about it, wasn''t deterred. "I''m going to look into it anyway and see what I can find out," he said. The older man shrugged and drove off.

An hour later Jared bounded into his windowless office, where he waited for what seemed an eternity for his archaic Dell government computer to load up. He began searching the Department of Homeland Security database for open investigations on the Silk Road. But to his surprise, there were no results. He tried other key words and variations on the spelling of the site. Nothing. What about a different input box? Still nothing. He was confused. There were not "hundreds of open cases" on the Silk Road, as his training officer had claimed. There were none.

Jared thought for a moment and then decided to go to the next-best technology that any seasoned government official uses to search for something important: Google. The first few results were historical Web sites referencing the ancient trade route between China and the Mediterranean. But halfway down the page he saw a link to an article from early June of that year on Gawker, a news and gossip blog, proclaiming that the Silk Road was "the underground website where you can buy any drug imaginable." The blog post showed screenshots of a Web page with a green camel logo in the corner. It also displayed pictures of a cornucopia of drugs, 340 "items" in all, including Afghan hash, Sour 13 weed, LSD, ecstasy, eight-balls of cocaine, and black tar heroin. Sellers were located all over the world; buyers too. You''ve got to be fucking kidding me, Jared thought. It''s this easy to buy drugs online? He then spent the entire rest of the day, and most of the evening, reading anything he could about the Silk Road.

Over the weekend, as he drove between antique fairs (his weekly ritual) near Chicago with his wife and young son, he was almost catatonically consumed with the drug Web site. Jared realized that if anyone could buy drugs on the Silk Road, anyone would: from middle-aged yuppies who lived on the North Side of Chicago to young kids growing up in the heartland. And if drugs were being sold on the site now, why not other contraband next? Maybe it would be guns, bombs, or poisons. Maybe, he imagined, terrorists could use it to create another 9/11. As he looked at his sleeping son in the rearview mirror, these thoughts petrified him.

But where do you even start on the Internet, in a world of complete anonymity?

Finally, as the weekend came to a close, Jared started to formulate an idea for how he could approach the case. He knew it would be laborious and tedious, but there was a chance that it could also eventually lead him to the creator of the Silk Road Web site.

But finding the drugs and the drug dealers, and even the founder of the Silk Road, would be easy compared with the challenge of persuading his supervisor to let him work this case based on a single tiny pink pill. Even if he could convince his boss, Jared would also have to cajole the U.S. Attorney''s Office into supporting him in this pursuit. And there wasn''t a U.S. attorney in all of America who would take on a case that involved one measly pill of anything. Exacerbating all of this was the fact that thirty-year-old Jared was as green as they came. And no one ever-ever!-took a newbie seriously.

He would need a way to convince them all that this was bigger than a single pink pill.

By Monday morning he had come up with a scheme that he hoped his boss would not be able to ignore. He took a deep breath, walked into his supervisor''s office, and sat down. "You got a minute?" he said as he threw the white envelope on the desk. "I have something important I need to show you."

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4.7 out of 54.7 out of 5
2,821 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Daniel Owen
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
All the little things
Reviewed in the United States on December 29, 2017
This book covers both the broad strokes of the Silk Road that you might have missed as the story was unfolding as well as the small nuances that you almost certainly didn’t know even if you were one of the participants. Bilton takes a balanced reporting... See more
This book covers both the broad strokes of the Silk Road that you might have missed as the story was unfolding as well as the small nuances that you almost certainly didn’t know even if you were one of the participants.

Bilton takes a balanced reporting perspective and describes both the highs and lows of the building and ultimate downfall of the Silk Road as well as the investigative efforts that brought it down.

Probably the most striking element is the number of small mistakes that lead to setbacks and victories on both sides of this cat and mouse game.

I would say one place some may disagree with the author is in what to include and what to leave out. In any writing that is the challenge the author faces. I am satisfied with his decisions but others may not be.

This is a well written book that will fill in many of the holes left by other sources.
35 people found this helpful
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Charles M Gunsaullus
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Absorbing Read - Fascinating Subject
Reviewed in the United States on August 22, 2018
I sort of stumbled upon this book while searching true crime, and boy am I glad I did. The dark web is something I''ve heard exists, but know nothing about it. The concept of The Silk Road is so simple, yet so completely illicit. The "Amazon of illegal drugs." That no... See more
I sort of stumbled upon this book while searching true crime, and boy am I glad I did. The dark web is something I''ve heard exists, but know nothing about it. The concept of The Silk Road is so simple, yet so completely illicit. The "Amazon of illegal drugs." That no one thought about it earlier than Ross Ulbricht is almost a bigger crime than what he did.

This was an engrossing read. It is so well-written that I didn''t want to put it down. It reminded me of the old Batman TV show from the ''60s - how are they going to get out of this one?!? Ross dodged bullets in the form of investigations by no less than four different government agencies. On the other hand, I wondered how on Earth the likes of the FBI (the ''feebs'') could possibly catch him since the TOR browser and Bitcoin are completely anonymous.

The individual stories are fascinating also; from Ross himself (The Dread Pirate Roberts) to interesting profiles of a handful of the government agents trying to catch him. Sometimes you would start to feel bad for Ross, but then he''d do something awful like order a hit.

I can''t recommend this book highly enough. It is thorough, easy to read, and suspenseful. Too often, non-fiction writers forget that even non-fiction can be suspenseful and engaging. Not this time.
17 people found this helpful
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Kindle Customer
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Good story, characterization of Texans is derailing
Reviewed in the United States on December 1, 2018
The story is great but the writing is clunky and is too often derailed by immature characterizations of Texans as “racists” whose dinner conversation can only possibly be about “football and F-150 trucks.”
25 people found this helpful
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daveyd
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Whatever happened to old schoolhouse road?
Reviewed in the United States on March 25, 2019
What if you could buy and sell drugs online like books or light bulbs? Welcome to Silk Road. The Silk Road website was a one-stop shop for illegal drugs. In just the first year''s existence sales exceeded $500,000. But wait! A few months later it was $500,000 in... See more
What if you could buy and sell drugs online like books or light bulbs? Welcome to Silk Road.
The Silk Road website was a one-stop shop for illegal drugs. In just the first year''s existence sales exceeded $500,000. But wait! A few months later it was $500,000 in weekly sales with commission sales into Ross''s pocket averaging $10,000 daily, and rising. Ross became The Pirate in American Kingpin.
Silk road even evolved into selling body parts where bone marrow would fetch $23,000 a gram, $150,000 for a good liver but the drug network was the vast force and the Drug Enforcement Administration would direct attention and resources into government focus. The FBI has Ross and the Silk Road under intense alert.
The importance of Ross Ulbricht is perhaps exemplified during his arrest when nearly thirty FBI agents swarmed from every direction for the event. The FBI charged that the website of Ross Ulbricht had trafficked $1.2 billion in drugs, weapons and poisons. Silk Road reportedly had hundreds of million dollars in sales. In 2015 Ross was sentenced to life in prison. In that year the CDC reported that more people died from drug overdoses than from gun deaths and that on-line drug buying remains a prosperity unaffected by the destiny of Ross Ulbricht or Silk Road.
11 people found this helpful
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Hans Peter Bech
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The Dark Web is the perfect operation platform for the dark dark side of mankind.
Reviewed in the United States on December 23, 2018
This is a great book. Well researched and well written. It’s the tale about a bright Texas college kid, let astray by an ideology that sees all things government as a the enemy of private freedom and initiative. He is particularly against government regulation of drug... See more
This is a great book. Well researched and well written.
It’s the tale about a bright Texas college kid, let astray by an ideology that sees all things government as a the enemy of private freedom and initiative. He is particularly against government regulation of drug consumption, which he believes should be everybody’s individual right to decide. In this pretext he builds an online drug market on the Dark Web right at a time where bitcoins get established. The web site grows like crazy and bitcoins worth million of dollars start to roll in. And so does the moral decline of the young Texan.
The Dark Web is the perfect operation platform for the dark dark side of mankind.
10 people found this helpful
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Masriki
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
One of the best nonfiction books I have ever read
Reviewed in the United States on June 17, 2021
American Kingpin is the best sort of nonfiction book. You get inside the antihero’s head enough to understand, though not necessarily empathize, with him. In the course of the book, Ross Ulbricht goes from a smart nobody who lives in someone''s basement to the creator of... See more
American Kingpin is the best sort of nonfiction book. You get inside the antihero’s head enough to understand, though not necessarily empathize, with him. In the course of the book, Ross Ulbricht goes from a smart nobody who lives in someone''s basement to the creator of the Silk Road, which brings in millions of dollars per day and becomes the locus of an Internet-based global drug empire.

Ulbricht would have been a more sympathetic character were he to have just admitted he was a very successful drug dealer and had not tried to pose as some sort of Libertarian political symbol. If Libertarian preaching has to be done (and it doesn’t), surely there must be a better symbol to hold up other than a drug dealer who also hired hit men for people who threatened his drug business. The guy was a smarter-than-average dope pusher, not a freedom fighter. (Of course, some Libertarian gun extremists have also held up David Koresh as a martyr, and he was a child molester who thought he was Jesus, so this at least seems like an improvement.)

You also understand the motivations of the law enforcement personnel after him, as well as the creativity and amount of work that went into catching him. His arrest, an ambush with undercover decoys in a public library, caught him in the act on his Silk Road site with an open laptop. It was a scene straight out of a movie, and the book would make a good one. The book also follows an undercover DEA agent named Carl Force, who impersonated an Internet drug trafficker to help catch Ulbricht. Force also stole hundreds of thousands of dollars electronically from Silk Road and almost successfully framed another person and sent them to prison for it.

Force is now in prison along with Ulbricht, but if nothing else from the point of view of a screenplay, "Carl Force" is the perfect name for a bad guy.
One person found this helpful
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Mojo
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Who said the Internet was boring?
Reviewed in the United States on March 23, 2018
Great read about the guy who created the Silk Road dark net site and those in his life. Goes to show that no matter what, extreme views lead to extreme situations and outcomes and how greed can turn good intentions bad. While we once believed in the anonymity of the... See more
Great read about the guy who created the Silk Road dark net site and those in his life. Goes to show that no matter what, extreme views lead to extreme situations and outcomes and how greed can turn good intentions bad. While we once believed in the anonymity of the Internet, this story shows that you leave a trail wherever you go and that no matter how careful you think you are, there is really no erasing that trail.
The story is well told. It grabs you, draws you in and you just can''t set it down.
11 people found this helpful
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austinwolf
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great story, well written, fast read
Reviewed in the United States on September 28, 2017
A fascinating story many will remember from live news coverage and follow-up reading is succinctly told by Nick in a witty summarized version of events. The detail is colorful and the sequencing of the story cannot be better. A fifth star would be earned by... See more
A fascinating story many will remember from live news coverage and follow-up reading is succinctly told by Nick in a witty summarized version of events. The detail is colorful and the sequencing of the story cannot be better.

A fifth star would be earned by including the rest of the story. It seems like the last third is rushed, lacking the fullness of the first two. I''m left feeling unsatisfied but not disappointed.
11 people found this helpful
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Top reviews from other countries

Anthony
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great story, compelling and, beautifully researched
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 26, 2019
This is a really well written and fully researched non-fiction story of a remarkable young man. Ross Albricht was a natural genius who chose to use his gift for extreme criminality. He set up the most famous online secret marketplace in the world, The Silk Road, which...See more
This is a really well written and fully researched non-fiction story of a remarkable young man. Ross Albricht was a natural genius who chose to use his gift for extreme criminality. He set up the most famous online secret marketplace in the world, The Silk Road, which allowed people to trade anything. Drugs, guns, poisons, even body parts. The story tells of a sensitive, caring young man who has a passion for making a massive impact on the world. His main initial interest is in the area of libertarianism and his extreme views in this direction lead him, with no previous computer experience, to set up the ultimate ''libertarian'' (for which read ''anarchic'') web site in the world where anything goes. Unfortunately, this leads him to intense criminality including ordering torture and murder when crossed. The story tells, also, of the clever intricate work of the investigative law enforcement agencies of the ''States, most of whom work tirelessly to bring down the Web site and find its creator. Some of the officers, however, cannot resist placing their own hands on the till. This is a page turner and a wonderful story which kept me fascinated right to the obvious final conclusion which you know is coming but just have to watch unfold in all of its rich details. A great book!
5 people found this helpful
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Ben
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The Rise And Fall of Ross Ulbright and the silk road
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 23, 2020
This book documents the phenomenal story of Ross Ulbright an idealist libertarian revolutionary who created one of the most thought provoking, dangerous statements towards being a free society America or for that matter the world has ever known and charts how destructive...See more
This book documents the phenomenal story of Ross Ulbright an idealist libertarian revolutionary who created one of the most thought provoking, dangerous statements towards being a free society America or for that matter the world has ever known and charts how destructive and degenerative human life has become by proxy of civilizations impact on itself. The story follows his life from a young age and tirelessly documents in vast detail the journey from being a disillusioned, disenfranchised youth who I believe genuinely wanted to change the world and have a profound impact for the better to at times a ruthless mercenary who through naivety and ego seemingly would stop at nothing to defend what he had built regardless of the consequences. It is a very complex story and there is always the presense of doubht in cases such as these, certainly for me anyway. If you have access I recommend the video recorded with his friend Rene in San Francisco, It certainly illuminates his personality and brings it to life a bit more. All that being said, the writer did a fantastic job of compiling all the information to create a really great engaging read! For me it just goes to show how broken and corrupt a world we have evolved into that this man can become this person he became. I definitely dont dislike Ross and in many ways I came to admire him. I find him incredibly impressive as a person, his determination, tenacity, obvious high intellect and revolutionary mindset. I think Silk Road or sites like it were an inevitable evolution and bi-product of the internet, freedom of information has many demons. I find it fascinating that this man was the man to shine such a light on the world and for me highlights just how fragile life on this planet has become. Great story, highly recommended!!!
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Ben
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Silk Road Takedown.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 15, 2020
Although this book seems to offer an authoritative account of the ''Silk Road Takedown'' I would regard the authors account as conjecture that frames Ross Ulbricht. Curtis Green is a crucial player in the Takedown of silk road and he offers a first-person account with more...See more
Although this book seems to offer an authoritative account of the ''Silk Road Takedown'' I would regard the authors account as conjecture that frames Ross Ulbricht. Curtis Green is a crucial player in the Takedown of silk road and he offers a first-person account with more authoritative facts than this book. Read ''Silk Road Takedown'' by Curtis Green instead.
3 people found this helpful
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Shane
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Blimey, I read it in one day!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 27, 2018
It reads like a novel, short chapters which jump from person to person, which suits me well. I am a developer myself so found it very interesting as I know a bit about the web. A really interesting factual story! Only bad point....It appears to have been very well...See more
It reads like a novel, short chapters which jump from person to person, which suits me well. I am a developer myself so found it very interesting as I know a bit about the web. A really interesting factual story! Only bad point....It appears to have been very well researched but Bilton (the author) must be adding bits here and there for effect - considering he never interviewed Ross and others - which kind of makes it a bit less factual in parts, but it does add a bit more drama and I didn''t mind that.
3 people found this helpful
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Scott Johnstone
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Amazing
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 31, 2017
This is the first book I''ve read on years and I really struggled to put this book down. It''s so gripping and just left me wanting more. The chapters are very short so it makes it easy to read ''just one more chapter'' again making it harder to put down. The story is...See more
This is the first book I''ve read on years and I really struggled to put this book down. It''s so gripping and just left me wanting more. The chapters are very short so it makes it easy to read ''just one more chapter'' again making it harder to put down. The story is fascinating and so well written going into immense detail without being boring. This book has sparked a new love of reading. Thank you Nick Bilton
6 people found this helpful
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