Manhattan U.S. Attorney Unseals Charges Against ‘Variety Jones’ In Silk Road Marketplace

December 7, 2015

A team of federal law enforcement officials in New York have announced the unsealing of charges against Roger Thomas Clark, a senior adviser to Silk Road operator Ross Ulbricht. According to the unsealed charges, Clark was a close confidante to Ulbricht and advised him on all aspects of Silk Road operations. Clark, arrested on Dec. 3, 2015 in Thailand, is pending extradition to the U.S.

In announcing the charges, Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Clark served as a trusted confidante to Ulbricht and advised him on how to maximize profits and use threats of violence to thwart law enforcement.

A citizen of Canada, Clark, 54, is charged with one count of narcotics conspiracy and one count of money laundering conspiracy. The narcotics conspiracy carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. The money laundering conspiracy carries a maximum sentence 20 years in prison.

Complaint Shows Clark’s Silk Road Role

Ulbricht created Silk Road in January of 2011, approximately, and operated the underground website until law enforcement shut it down in October 2013, according to allegations in the complaint unsealed in Manhattan. Silk Road became the most extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet where illegal goods and services such as drugs were bought and sold.

Silk Road allowed users to buy and sell drugs and other illegal goods and services anonymously. It operated on what is called “The Onion Router” or “Tor” network, which is a network of computers designed to conceal the IP addresses of users’ computers. It also used bitcoin to conceal the identities and locations of users sending and receiving funds on the site.

Clark went by the online names of “Variety Jones,” “VJ,” “Cimon” and “Plural of Mongoose,” according to the unsealed documents. Clark counseled Ulbricht on improving and expanding Silk Road’s technical infrastructure, such as helping Ulbricht hire and manage a computer programmer. Clark also helped Ulbricht develop and enforce rules for how Silk Road vendors and users did business. The rules were designed to maximize commissions Ulbricht received from Silk Road sales. Clark also advised Ulbricht on how to conceal his involvement in Silk Road.

To thwart law enforcement’s investigation of Silk Road, Clark advocated the use of intimidation and violence to prevent Silk Road support staff from cooperating with law enforcement. Clark and Ulbricht discussed tracking down a Silk Road employee to make sure he had not gone “(o)ff the rails.”

FBI: Darknet Is Not Beyond Law’s Reach

Diego Rodriguez, FBI assistant director in charge of the New York field office, said Clark’s arrest shows that criminals engaged in Dark Web activities cannot escape law enforcement. He said Clark, who was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to serve as a counselor to Ulbricht, may have thought residing in Thailand would keep him out of U.S. authorities’ reach, but international partnerships proved him wrong. Rodriguez thanked law enforcement partners.

James M. Gibbons, Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) Chicago acting special agent in charge, said Clark and Ulbricht facilitated an anonymous global black market for “all things illegal.” He said the arrest proves the law has a great reach that extends into cyberspace.

He said HIS special agents continue to work with federal and international law enforcement partners to patrol the Darknet to protect the public.


James J. Hunt, the special agent in charge of the New York field division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), said Clark believed he attained anonymity posing as “Variety Jones” while allegedly committing crimes, but “handcuffed and pending extradition is not anonymity.”

Also read: Corrupt Silk Road agent Carl Force gets 78 months in prison

Full Closure Sought For Silk Road Saga

Shantelle P. Kitchen, the special agent in charge of the New York field office of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation, said the complaint against Clark represents another step in bringing full closure to the investigation of the Silk Road enterprise. IRS Criminal Investigations remains committed to investigating narcotics organizations, including those operating in the anonymity of cyberspace.

The Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit is prosecuting the case. Timothy Howard and Richard Cooper, assistant U.S. Attorneys, are in charge of the prosecution.

Images from Shutterstock.

Last modified (UTC): October 20, 2019 06:19