FreeRossDAO Makes Winning $6M Bid for NFT Art by Silk Road Convict Ulbricht

A DAO devoted to appealing Ross Ulbricht's life sentences won the auction for his NFT artwork.

By: Samuel Haig Loading...

FreeRossDAO Makes Winning $6M Bid for NFT Art by Silk Road Convict Ulbricht

FreeRossDAO has won the auction for NFT art created by Ross Ulbricht, the convicted criminal mastermind behind the Silk Road darknet emporium.

Despite being formed a week ago, FreeRossDAO won the auction with a bid of 1,446 Ethereum (roughly $6 million) after raising more than 2,836.6 ETH from more than 1,320 members of the crypto community. Now it plans to use the proceeds to fund a bid to reduce or overturn Ulbricht’s life sentences.

“This is just the beginning,” tweeted FreeRossDAO on Dec. 9. “We still have a long way to go to seek justice and rectify his disproportionate sentence.”

Contributors that backed the organization will receive ROSS tokens representing fractional shares in the NFTs. ROSS holders will also be able to vote on governance proposals for the DAO. The DAO stressed that an official announcement regarding the NFT’s fractionalization and contract address will be posted in the coming days, warning contributors to be vigilant of fake ROSS tokens in the meantime.

Four Graphite Pencil Compositions

FreeRossDAO was formed out of DeFi and NFT collective PleasrDAO, which famously won the auction for Edward Snowden’s nonfungible token in April. The winning bid for Ulbricht’s NFTs was placed by SuperRareuser “yfimaxi” — a member of PleasrDAO who was tasked with bidding after FreeRossDAO’s multi-sig wallet experienced “issues.”

Bidding for Ross Ulbricht’s first NFT collection went live on SuperRare alongside the Art Basel Miami event on Dec 2.

The Ross Ulbricht Genesis Collection includes one oil canvas and four graphite pencil compositions with accompanying essays created by the 37-year-old during his incarceration. The series also features five artworks from Ulbricht’s childhood and teen years, and an animation created by artist Levitate accompanied by a voice-over performed by Ulbricht.

Ulbricht was sentenced to two life sentences plus 40 years in May 2015 after being convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering, narcotics trafficking, and related crimes. He is serving his sentence in a federal prison in Tuscon, Arizona.

Magic Mushrooms

When the case broke, the Silk Road case solidified the suspicions of many in traditional finance who dismissed crypto as rife with underworld applications. Yet it also demonstrated how quickly a business could scale using Bitcoin and the robustness of the network in a commercial enterprise.

‘Life in a Box’ by Ross Ulbricht

Ross Ulbrich concocted the idea for Silk Road in 2010 and began growing magic mushrooms outside Austin, Texas to list on the website upon its early 2011 launch. It rapidly morphed into an eBay-like marketplace for narcotics and other contraband accessible via the deep web using an anonymizing web browser called The Onion Router (ToR). Bitcoin was Silk Road’s exclusive currency, while products purchased from the platform would be delivered via domestic or international postal services.

The platform expanded to host 340 different listings from a variety of vendors by 2011. Soon enough, federal agents posing as buyers and sellers started probing the platform.

Darknet Markets

By May 2013, Silk Road had grown to host more than 11,000 listings including sellers advertising unregulated pharmaceuticals, counterfeit money and art, untaxed tobacco, hacking tools, stolen goods, and other prized contraband. The platform had also banned listings for firearms. Some analysts said that darknet markets were quietly emerging as a leading utility for Bitcoin at the time.

On Oct. 1, 2013, Ulbricht was arrested at the Glen Park Library in San Francisco while he was logged into Silk Road using his administrative account.

Authorities had identified Ulbricht by connecting his personal email account with the pseudonymous online avatar “altoid” that Ross had used online to promote Silk Road on darknet forums.


On May 29, 2015, Ulbricht received five concurrent sentences after being found guilty in February, totaling two life sentences without parole plus 40 years. Ulbricht was convicted of narcotics trafficking, conspiracy to launder money, computer hacking, and running a criminal enterprise.

Federal prosecutors had also alleged that Ulbricht had $730,000 in murder-for-hire deals targeting at least five individuals. While Ulbricht was not convicted on any murder-for-hire charges, evidence related to the allegations was introduced at trial and was considered by the judge in Ulbricht’s sentencing, and was taken into account during Ulbricht’s unsuccessful appeal.