The New York Times on the UT-Dallas Grad Arrested as a Drug Trafficker

Is Ross Ulbricht the criminal mastermind Dread Pirate Roberts?

You may remember the news last October about the arrest of Ross Ulbricht, who federal agents say was the mastermind behind Silk Road, an online black market for drugs. Ulbricht was in San Francisco at the time and grew up in Austin, but he earned a degree in physics from the University of Texas at Dallas.

The New York Times has done a deep dive into the case. Many of Ulbricht’s friends and family refuse to believe that he could be Dread Pirate Roberts, the alias used by the head of Silk Road. DPR allegedly earned tens of millions of dollars from facilitating the sale of drugs, including oxycodone, cocaine, heroin, and LSD. He also paid a hitman to kill a number people who were interfering in his business.

Meanwhile, this is more typical of the Ulbricht described by those who’ve known him personally:

By the time he went to the University of Texas at Dallas, on a full academic scholarship, he was 6-foot-2, a lean, good-looking guy who could have fronted an indie rock band. But he was the opposite of a Lothario. He was vulnerable and eager to find a soul mate, and fell hard for that college girlfriend. The two were engaged, according to Thomas Haney, but it ended when Ross learned that she had cheated with one of his closest buddies.

“I’d have killed the guy, but Ross completely forgave him within a year of it happening,” Mr. Haney said. That was Ross’s style, not just willing to forgive, but empathetic to the point of mushy.

You can see more of this version of Ulbricht on a recording he made with his friend for Storycorps, a national oral history project, in December 2012. In it, he talks about how he held off on having sex with his first love in college.

“We didn’t have sex for like three months,” he said. “But we’d make out, and really, like, get close but never go there. And when we finally did, it was amazing.”