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eBay Engineer Says He Helped Code Drug Marketplace

One online marketplace you haven’t seen featured on EcommerceBytes is Silk Road. That’s because it’s an online bazaar for buying and selling illegal drugs, according to government prosecutors.

That’s what makes it surprising to learn an eBay software engineer was involved in coding the website.

Wired reports that Richard Bates helped college friend Ross Ulbricht by giving him coding advice on a “top secret” project. But once he knew about the nature of the marketplace, Bates continued to advise his friend on his programming problems, he testified.

The eBay engineer also allegedly used the Silk Road marketplace to buy drugs, according to Wired’s coverage of his testimony.

Ulbricht’s lawyer questioned Bates about his motivation in testifying against Ulbricht, saying he agreed to testify in order to avoid facing his own legal consequences. Wired also said the defense argues Ulbricht created Silk Road only as an economic experiment before giving it up to the real operators of the site “who would expand it into a narcotics empire and then later frame Ulbricht.”

Ars Technica has more background on the case and the alleged exchanges between Bates and Ulbricht.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.