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U.S. brings new charges against accused Silk Road creator

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors have brought a trio of new charges against a Texas man accused of creating the underground online drug marketplace Silk Road.

A new indictment against Ross Ulbricht, 30, filed late on Thursday in Manhattan federal court, added charges of narcotics trafficking, distribution of narcotics by means of the Internet, and conspiracy to traffic in fraudulent identification documents.

The new charges came on top of four other counts previously asserted by prosecutors: narcotics trafficking conspiracy, continuing criminal enterprise, computer hacking conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.

Ulbricht, who prosecutors said was known online as "Dread Pirate Roberts," lost his bid to dismiss the earlier charges in July. He faces trial on Nov. 3.

Prosecutors say Ulbricht owned and operated Silk Road, which they allege served as a black-market bazaar where drugs and criminal services like computer hacking and forgeries could be bought in exchange for the digital currency bitcoin.

The superseding indictment filed on Thursday accused Ulbricht of personally distributing and aiding in the distribution of substances containing heroin, cocaine, LSD and methamphetamine.

It also accused Ulbricht of engaging in a conspiracy to sell fake ID documents, such as drivers' licenses and passports, on Silk Road.

Federal authorities shut down Silk Road last year, though a new Internet marketplace under the same name debuted in November.

Joshua Dratel, Ulbricht's lawyer, said in a statement the new charges demonstrated the government's attempt to convert a single alleged course of conduct into a set of multiple, interchangeable charges.

The prosecution's goal, he said, was "to improve its chances of having a jury, overwhelmed by the sheer number of charges, agree with the government on at least one."

The case is U.S. v. Ulbricht, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 14-cr-00068.

(Editing by Tom Brown and Matthew Lewis)

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