Ross Ulbricht could face life in prison after being found guilty of seven charges related to his running of the Silk Road, a dark web bazaar where shoppers bought and sold illegal goods with bitcoin.
According to prosecutors, Ulbricht - who went by the online name Dread Pirate Roberts - ran he Silk Road from 2011 until 2013, offering users the chance to buy illegal services and goods, like drugs, with bitcoin.
In late 2013 the FBI swooped in to close the site and arrest Ulbricht, seizing a laptop full of incriminating evidence. They also seized millions of dollars in bitcoin which would be used in evidence against him because he had not laundered his currency, meaning that it could be tracked through the public ledger. Former FBI agent Ilhwan Yum told the court that he traced more than $13 million in transactions from the Silk Road to Ulbricht's wallet.
Bitcoin was the only form of payment accepted on the Silk Road, with the site essentially operating an internal bank where every user had to hold an account. These accounts - nearly a million were registered - had bitcoin addresses stored on wallets on servers controlled by the site. Once the wallets were loaded with currency, they could be used to buy from vendors on the site, with Ulbricht charging a commission of between eight per cent and 15%.
During his trial, Ulbricht admitted that he started the site but claimed to have left it within months. At one point claims surfaced that the "real" Dread Pirate Roberts was the former boss of bankrupt bitcoin exchange, Mark Karpeles.
However, after less than four hours of deliberation, the jury found him guilty of all seven charges faced, including narcotics and money laundering conspiracies. He faces a minimum of 30 years in prison.
Says Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara: "Ulbricht’s arrest and conviction - and our seizure of millions of dollars of Silk Road Bitcoins - should send a clear message to anyone else attempting to operate an online criminal enterprise."