The man who was said to be the brains behind the now-defunct Silk Road operation is awaiting extradition to the United States for trial.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed charges against 54-year-old Roger Thomas Clark, who was arrested in Thailand on Dec. 3 through a joint operation of U.S law enforcement agents and local Thai police. Clark has been charged with narcotics trafficking and money laundering, crimes that could get him a maximum of 30 years in prison.
Federal authorities believe the Canadian, who also went by the name Variety Jones, has been a close confidante of Silk Road owner and operator Ross Ulbricht.
“Clark is alleged to have been a close confidante of Ulbricht’s who advised him on all aspects of Silk Road’s operations and helped him grow the site into an extensive criminal enterprise,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
The identity of Variety Jones loomed over the trial of Ulbricht, who was sentenced to life in prison on charges of drug trafficking, money laundering and a whole host of other cybercrimes. In his journal, according to Wired, Ulbricht described Jones as “the most important figure on the drug market’s payroll,” who worked as a coder, a security auditor for the site, a financial adviser, and even as a public relations manager.
The news outlet quoted Ulbricht, saying: “He has helped me better interact with the community around Silk Road, delivering proclamations, handling troublesome characters, running a sale, changing my name, devising rules, and on and on. He also helped me get my head straight regarding legal protection, cover stories, devising a will, finding a successor, and so on. He’s been a real mentor.”
In fact, it was Clark who allegedly came up with the name Dead Pirate Roberts for Ulbricht, giving the impression that the site has a revolving group of administrators, according to Wired. Authorities said Clark was received “at least hundreds of thousands of dollars for his assistance in operating Silk Road.”
“Clark may have thought residing in Thailand would keep him out of reach of U.S. authorities, but our international partnerships have proven him wrong,” FBI Assistant Director Diego Rodriguez said in a statement.
The Silk Road website, created in January 2011, operated for two years until authorities shut it down in October 2013. At the time, the site had generated more than $214 million in sales of drugs and transactions involving different illegal practices, which include hiring hitmen, using bitcoins.
Ulbricht ran the site using the moniker Clark gave him during those two years until he was caught red-handed during a sting in a San Francisco coffee shop. In his journal, Ulbricht said he wanted “to create a website where people could buy anything anonymously, with no trail whatsoever that could lead back to them.”