A man has become the first Illawarra person - and one of only a handful nationwide - to be convicted of trafficking drugs via an underground website.
Christopher Owen was yesterday jailed for a minimum 5½ years for selling large amounts of drugs via the Silk Road - an anonymous, online drug-trading website in which buyers pay for illegal substances using the Bitcoin virtual currency.
Wollongong District Court was told by the prosecution that Owen ran a "reasonably sophisticated" drug operation out of two rooms in his parents' Figtree home, shipping MDMA (ecstasy), the horse tranquiliser ketamine and methylamphetamine to customers across the country.
Police documents tendered to the court said police found various amounts of drugs organised in Australia Post envelopes when Owen was pulled over and his car searched in West Wollongong on April 27 last year.
The envelopes were addressed to different people across the country. Police also found more than $1000 cash and two mobile phones linked to Owen's drug deals in the car.
However, the full extent of the drug operation was not known until officers searched Owen's recently renovated bedroom.
Inside, they found a "mini office" with computers, a safe, drugs, scales, cutting agents, about $14,000 in cash and a drug ledger with a record of transactions.
An examination of Owen's mobile phone revealed a user name and password for the Silk Road website, of which he was an active member for about two months.
An entry on the site spruiking Owen's wares promised "high quality crystal meth and high end MDMA".
"My goal is a happy customer, unlike most (not all) meth dealers you meet face to face," Owen wrote in an April 18, 2012, entry on the site.
The court heard records from the website showed Owen supplied 172 MDMA pills in 28 separate transactions from April 16 to April 26 last year, as well as shipping three packages of unknown drugs in separate transactions during the same period.
In return, he received 1689.49 "Bitcoin" - the equivalent of $8447.45.
The court heard that Owen became hooked on ice when he was 20 but managed to keep his addiction and drug operation a secret from his parents.
Judge Paul Conlon yesterday accepted that Owen had no prior criminal convictions, had good prospects of rehabilitation and had entered guilty pleas at the earliest opportunity, entitling him to a 25 per cent discount on his final sentence.
He ordered Owen to spend a minimum of 5½ years in jail with a further five years on parole.
With time already served, Owen will be eligible for parole on October 26, 2017.