Imprisoned Silk Road Founder Sold His First NFT for $6.3M to the DAO Trying to Free Him

Ross Ulbricht, a man serving two life sentences after creating an illegal website that was used to buy anything from narcotics to exotic plants, has sold his first NFT for over $6 million


Ross Ulbricht; Photo: Julia Vie for Rolling Stone


key takeaways

  • A group of 1,320 crypto investors, who formed the FreeRossDAO, raised over $12 million to win the auction
  • Proceeds from the NFT auction will go towards charity, according to Ulbricht

Ross Ulbricht, a renowned bitcoin proponent who was sentenced to life in prison after founding controversial e-commerce website Silk Road, sold his first NFT at auction for $6.3 million worth of ether on Thursday. 

“I am floored,” Ulbricht tweeted on his account run by a loved one on Friday. “I feel like I have a new purpose now. The auction exceeded all expectations.”

Over a thousand crypto investors, dubbed the FreeRossDAO, galvanized to free Ulbricht, raising over $12 million to win the auction. The nascent DAO, a decentralized autonomous organization, used half the funds raised for the blockchain-based digital collectible.

“This is just the beginning,” the DAO said in a tweet. “Buying this NFT has not freed Ross. We still have a long way to go to seek justice and rectify his disproportionate sentence of double life imprisonment as a first-time, non-violent offender.” 

The DAO, which formed on Dec. 2 after the NFT collection was announced, describes its mission as “[uniting] in solidarity for Ross, gathering funds to buy his Genesis Collection and protesting the injustices of the American prison system.”  

The leftover funds that weren’t spent in the auction will stay in the group’s treasury and be managed by contributors of the DAO. Members received a $ROSS token to vote on how funds will be used — necessary for the “autonomous” component of a functioning DAO.

“Perspective” is a graphite pencil drawing created in prison; Source: Ross Ulbricht Genesis Collection

“We really want to get this bootstrapped, started and get the community together to essentially fight for the freedom of Ross but also to fight for fixing this broken prison system,” a member of the DAO, who goes by “Jamis”, said in a Twitter space on Dec. 1. 

The Ross Ulbricht Genesis Collection consists of artwork he has done as a child and later behind bars, which he described as a depiction of “his [life] story” in a blog post. 

Proceeds from the collection are going to charity, according to Ulbricht’s mother, Lyn. “Ross wants to use his art to help people. And we’re starting out with helping the incarcerated [and their families with] the suffering they go through,” she said in the same Twitter space.

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