FBI confuses Penn and Penn State
Ulbricht is the alleged founder of Silk Road, an online marketplace of illicit goods
October 3, 2013, 9:53 pm · Updated October 3, 2013, 11:30 pm·
To the list of those who have publicly confused the University with Penn State in recent years, add the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to a criminal complaint filed by the FBI, Ross Ulbricht — alleged founder of online contraband marketplace Silk Road, who was arrested yesterday in San Francisco — attended “graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Materials Science and Engineering.”
However, many credible news sources — including Forbes magazine and The Baltimore Sun — have reported that Ulbricht, known online as “Dread Pirate Roberts,” in fact received a master’s degree in materials science from Penn State in 2010.
Also contrary to the FBI’s complaint, Ulbricht doesn’t appear in the University’s alumni directory, and the Office of the University Registrar has found no indication that a person by that name has studied at Penn.
Authorities shut down Silk Road following Ulbricht’s arrest. The site, which dealt mostly in illegal drugs such as LSD and heroin, existed on the Undernet — a region of the web not accessible by standard search engines — and used a form of online currency known as “Bitcoins.”
The FBI complaint described Silk Road as seeking “to make conducting illegal transactions on the Internet as easy and frictionless as shopping online at mainstream [e-commerce] websites.”
Upon his arrest, police seized about 26,000 illegal Bitcoins, valued at approximately $3.6 million.
Investigators were first tipped off about Ulbricht’s identity as Silk Road’s founder after analyzing a number of posts on various online forums, Google and LinkedIn.
Further reporting today confirmed that Ulbricht had ordered a murder-for-hire against a former Silk Road employee who had been arrested by an undercover FBI agent. Ulbricht will appear in a Maryland court today.