The US Justice Department has announced the arrest of a 'key player' suspected of helping to manage the notorious drug website Silk Road, according to unsealed court documents from a New York district court.
Roger Thomas Clark, 54, was arrested in Thailand on 3 December and is now awaiting extradition to the US. It is alleged that Clark was a 'senior adviser' to and ‘close confidante' of Ross Ulbricht, aka Dread Pirate Roberts, the owner and operator of the once-lucrative underground marketplace.
Silk Road operated from the beginning of 2011 until it was shut down by US authorities on October 2013. Under anonymity provided by the Tor network and through use of the cryptocurrency bitcoin, users were able to buy and sell illicit goods including class-A drugs, hacking manuals and medical supplies.
During this time, it is alleged that Clark used a number of aliases including ‘Variety Jones', ‘Cimon' and ‘Plural of Mongoose', and was highly involved in the management of the Silk Road enterprise.
The unsealed court documents state: "Clark counselled 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."
US authorities allege that Clark was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for his help with the operation.
A Canadian citizen, Clark is now charged with one count of narcotics conspiracy and one count of money laundering conspiracy, according to the documents.
Following the arrest, FBI assistant director Diego Rodriguez said: "The arrest of Roger Thomas Clark shows again that conducting criminal activities on the Dark Web does not keep a criminal out of law enforcement's reach.
"As alleged, Clark was paid at least hundreds of thousands of dollars to act as a counsellor to Ross Ulbricht's black-market bazaar, Silk Road. Clark may have thought residing in Thailand would keep him out of reach of US authorities, but our international partnerships have proven him wrong."
Meanwhile, DEA special agent in charge James Hunt blasted the notion that the use of Tor alone is a guarantee of staying hidden from authorities.
"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," he warned.
Silk Road mastermind Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison back in May for his role in the operation. At the time, Ulbricht was described by prosecutors as "the kingpin of a worldwide digital drug-trafficking enterprise".
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