A US man has confessed to operating a spinoff version of the Silk Road website, which enabled more than 100,000 people to buy and sell illegal drugs over the internet.
Blake Benthall, 26, and wearing a hooded sweatshirt with “Internet Better” on the back, appeared in a US federal court in San Francisco after his Wednesday arrest.
He faced several charges, including conspiracy to commit narcotics trafficking, which carries a potential life sentence and a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison.
Assistant US Attorney Kathryn Haun told US Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley that Benthall was a flight risk, was a danger to the community and should be held without bail after he waived his rights and “did admit to everything”, including running the copycat website.
Calling Benthall a “severe flight risk” who had acquired fake identify documents, Haun said investigators found $US100,000 ($A108,195) in cash in his apartment after he earned $US400,000 in monthly commissions on $US8 million monthly revenue since December.
Corley ordered Benthall returned to a federal lockup until a bail hearing on Friday.
Preet Bharara, the US attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement that Benthall created “Silk Road 2.0,” a “nearly identical criminal enterprise” website, about five weeks after the government shut down the original version in October 2013.
Authorities said the original site generated more than $US1 billion in illicit business since 2011.
Authorities said the new version of Silk Road attracted about 150,000 active users since Benthall started it in December, acting as its owner and operator. They said it was used by thousands of people peddling illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services to buyers worldwide.