Julia Vie saw her boyfriend Ross Ulbricht for the last time when she visited him in 2015 at the Brooklyn prison where he was awaiting trial on felony charges, according to reports. Ulbricht received two life sentences plus another 40 years –– a sentence some believe was too harsh, CBS News reported.
"I don't think he deserves to be in jail for the rest of his life," says Vie. "I mean, maybe take the best years of his life, at least, but leave him with the last part of his life."
Vie and Ulbricht started dating when she was a freshman at Penn State and he was a graduate student studying materials science, the outlet reported. Vie says the pair quickly fell in love.
"When Ross and I really started to get to know each other, it was intense," Vie remembers. "We were always hanging out ... always doing these amazing things together."
Ulbricht was 29 years old when he was arrested in 2013 for creating a website called the Silk Road. The site empowered users to exchange otherwise illegal goods, including drugs and weapons, supposedly free of government watch, according to the Department of Justice.
The website lasted almost three years and ended up collecting more than $200 million in total sales revenue. Ulbricht, of course, had a stake in each sale.
Because purchases were only made through bitcoin, all purchases and sales went supposedly untraced. These transactions, however, ultimately caught the attention of law enforcement agencies including an FBI task force that focuses on cyber-security.
After Ulbricht earned his master's degree, he moved to Austin and Vie followed him there. Both of them tried off-jobs to pay the bills. She began a photography studio, while he became the mastermind behind the infamous website.
"I remember when he was coming up with the idea," Vie told CBS. "He said something about ... the Silk Road in Asia ... and how it was a huge network ... And that's what he wanted to create, so he thought it was the perfect name."
Their relationship quickly changed, Vie told the outlet. Ulbricht began isolating himself, spending more time in the bedroom and going out less. Vie recalled him constantly on his computer.
The pair broke up soon after Silk Road was launched –– and Ulbricht moved to San Francisco, claiming he would quit the site.
Vie encouraged Ulbricht to visit her in Austin, where she stayed, but before he had a chance to visit he was taken into FBI custody in the fall of 2013.
What followed was a lengthy investigation by the FBI, the IRS, DEA, and the Department of Homeland Security.
"I think he knew he was going to get caught — and end up being a martyr for his cause," she said. Ulbricht was charged with seven counts, including narcotics trafficking, computer hacking, money laundering, and a kingpin statute usually reserved for mafia dons and cartel leaders.
Vie learned about the arrest by googling her boyfriend's name.
"I just started bawling and falling on the ground ... I was so upset," she said. "I knew it was something shady, but ... I had no idea it was as big as it was."
Ulbricht, at the age of 31, was convicted of all seven counts including trafficking drugs on the internet, narcotics-trafficking conspiracy, running a continuing criminal enterprise, computer-hacking conspiracy, and money-laundering conspiracy, according to the Department of Justice.