New York: A man has been arrested for starting a spinoff version of the shuttered Silk Road website, enabling more than 100,000 people to buy and sell illegal drugs in the last year, authorities announced Thursday.
Blake Benthall, 26, faces a conspiracy to commit narcotics trafficking count that carries a potential penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison.
He also faces related charges after his arrest in San Francisco yesterday.
US Attorney Preet Bharara 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 last year.
Authorities said the original site generated more than USD 1 billion in illicit business since 2011.
"Let's be clear this Silk Road, in whatever form, is the road to prison," he said. "Those looking to follow in the footsteps of alleged cybercriminals should understand that we will return as many times as necessary to shut down noxious online criminal bazaars. We don't get tired."
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos said, "Benthall should have known that those who hide behind the keyboard will ultimately be found."
It was not immediately clear who will represent Benthall when he appears in court in California today.
Authorities said the copycat 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 generated monthly sales of at least USD 8 million as it was used by thousands of people peddling illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services to buyers worldwide.
Silk Road 2.0 appeared online only weeks after the government announced in October 2013 that it had shut down Silk Road and arrested Ross William Ulbricht.
Investigators say Ulbricht was known online as "Dread Pirate Roberts" and was Silk Road's owner and operator. Ulbricht, who has pleaded not guilty, is awaiting a January trial in New York.