(c) 2013, Bloomberg News.

(c) 2013, Bloomberg News.

NEW YORK The operator of the "Silk Road Hidden Website" was charged with running a "sprawling black- market bazaar" where anonymous users paid Bitcoin digital currency for illegal drugs and phony identification documents.

U.S. prosecutors said Ross William Ulbricht, known on Silk Road as "Dread Pirate Roberts," ran the site as "the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet" from January 2011 to September 2013. He tried to have one user killed for attempting to extort money from the site, prosecutors said in a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday in Manhattan federal court.

"The site has sought to make conducting illegal transactions on the Internet as easy and frictionless as shopping online at mainstream e-commerce websites," the government said in a civil forfeiture complaint unsealed Wednesday. The site generated sales of about $1.2 billion and about $80 million in commissions for Silk Road, prosecutors said.

Ulbricht, 29, was charged with narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. The government seized the website and is seeking control of millions of dollars of Bitcoins held by Silk Road.

He was arrested Tuesday in San Francisco and scheduled to appear Wednesday morning in federal court there, according to Julie Bolcer, a spokeswoman for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.