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Check It Out: American Kingpin

In 2011, twenty-six year old Ross Ulbricht launched a clandestine website on the Dark Web called the Silk Road. In 2013, Ross was arrested by the FBI in a San Francisco library. This dramatic arrest was a result of an often competing, but ultimately coordinated effort from several government departments, including the DEA, The Department of Homeland Security, the IRS, the United States Postal Service, and the FBI’s special cybercrimes unit.  Today, I am recommending American Kingpin by Nick Bilton—a compelling work of narrative nonfiction that details the hunt for Ross Ulbricht—the criminal mastermind behind the Silk Road. 

Ross Ulbricht grew up in the suburbs of Texas.  A former boy scout who was known as being smart and kind, Ross developed a fondness for mind-altering experiences as a teenager.  A Physics major at Penn State, Ross embraced the Libertarian ideals of a society free from government control.  Ross wanted to make a difference in the world and he believed that creating a web site that could be a free and open marketplace where people from all over the planet could buy anything and everything, he could affect the governments’ resistance towards legalizing drugs and stop violence and oppression in the world.  

In the two years of its existence, the Silk Road became a $1.2 billion enterprise utilizing the untraceable technologies of TOR and Bitcoin. Under the moniker of “The Dread Pirate Roberts”, Ross became the Kingpin—going so far as to commission the murders of those who crossed him.    

Through extensive research of trial transcripts, web postings, and interviews with government agents, journalist and author Nick Bolton tells an engrossing story of this outlaw subculture of drug dealers, internet hackers, and bitcoin scammers, and the government’s hunt to identify and capture the Dread Pirate Roberts. 

Check out American Kingpin by Nick Bilton and other riveting tales of true crime like it at the Sioux City Public Library.  


Check It Out is supported by Avery Brothers.

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