Ross William Ulbricht, who called himself Dread Pirate Roberts, has been convicted in the US of creating and operating an online black market that traded mainly in illegal drugs of every kind.
Known as Silk Road, the supposedly anonymous site connected dealers with customers around the world, making at least $232 million in sales.
A six-man, six-woman jury in a federal court in New York City found Ulbricht guilty after little more than three hours of deliberations, despite his defence team claiming that he had been framed.
Dressed in a navy jacket, blue shirt and tan pants, Ulbricht reportedly did not react to the verdict. His parents, Lyn and Kirk Ulbricht, both dropped their heads, while some of the website founder’s supporters wept.
Silk Road claimed to be completely anonymous. It required users to download an encrypted web browser and to only pay using the digital currency Bitcoin.
But the US government managed to infiltrate the network.
Homeland Security agent Jared Der-Yeghiayan testified that he took over the member accounts of Silk Road staff as each was arrested or agreed to co-operate.
At the time Ulbricht was arrested, he was logged into a laptop at a public library under the name ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ and was chatting to the agent, the prosecution alleged. He was also found in possession of almost $17 million worth of Bitcoins.
Silk Road was shut down by police in October 2013 after running for almost three years.
An American man by the name of Blake Benthall is currently facing charges for allegedly creating Silk Road 2, the website’s successor.
Ulbricht will be sentenced on May 15, and is believed to be facing life in prison.