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Justice Department announces arrest of 'key figure' in Silk Road drug website

Roger Thomas Clark was arrested in Thailand

Roger Thomas Clark, accused of being "a senior advisor" of Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht, has been arrested in Thailand. The US Department of Justice announced the news in a press release late this evening, describing Clark as "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."

Clark reportedly went under the username "Variety Jones" at the Silk Road, an underground drug marketplace that operated on the dark web between 2011 and 2013, when authorities shut it down. Today's press release says Clark was paid "hundreds of thousands of dollars" for his role in helping Ulbricht steer the illegal site's path. The complaint against Clark sounds pretty damning; here's an excerpt (emphasis by The Verge).

Among other things, Clark counseled Ulbricht on the improvement and expansion of Silk Road’s technical infrastructure, including helping Ulbricht hire and manage a computer programmer to assist with these projects.  Clark also helped Ulbricht develop and enforce the rules governing how Silk Road vendors and users could do business on the site, which were designed to maximize the commissions that Ulbricht received from Silk Road sales.  Clark further advised Ulbricht on how to conceal his involvement in, and hide his profits from, the operation of Silk Road, including helping Ulbricht devise cover stories to tell others and make plans to obtain foreign citizenship and offshore bank accounts.  Finally, Clark also advised Ulbricht on tactics to thwart efforts by law enforcement to investigate Silk Road.  In that vein, Clark repeatedly advocated the use of intimidation and violence to keep members of the Silk Road support staff from cooperating with law enforcement.

He's being charged with one count of narcotics conspiracy, which carries "a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years," plus one count of money laundering, which could add another 20. "Clark may have thought residing in Thailand would keep him out of reach of US authorities, but our international partnerships have proven him wrong," said FBI assistant director Diego Rodriguez in a statement. Other officials also boasted about snagging Clark, a Canadian citizen. "Anonymity is what Roger Thomas Clark believed he attained posing as ‘Variety Jones’ while allegedly committing crimes; but handcuffed and pending extradition is not anonymity," said DEA special agent in charge James J. Hunt.

Clark, 54, was arrested on December 3rd and his extradition to face charges in the United States is pending. In May, Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison for founding and managing the Silk Road.