One of the principal confidants of Ross Ulbricht (architect and admin of the original darknet market, Silk Road) was sentenced to a term of 20 years yesterday, July 11th. Roger Thomas Clark, 61, who started his career on Silk Road as a marijuana seed vendor under the name Variety Jones, was at one time described by Ulbricht as a “mentor” and is said to have played a large role in shaping the market early on in its existence. He fled North America soon after Ulbricht was arrested, in Oct 2013.
A self-described libertarian who viewed Silk Road as a promising and much-needed enterprise, Clark advised Ulbricht in several different capacities, and was described by prosecutors as “a central figure in helping to lead Silk Road.” Judge Sidney Stein, who presided over yesterday’s sentencing, wrote that Clark “misguidedly turned his belief that drugs should be legal into material assistance for a criminal enterprise” in his ruling.
Roger Clark mugshot. Source: The Times UK
Clark was extradited from Thailand in June 2018, nearly five years after the fall of Silk Road. He managed to evade capture for longer than almost every other high-profile figure associated with the market, for which he is believed to have conducted security audits, played a role in marketing, and even encouraged Ulbricht to carry out hits on thieves who had stolen thousands of bitcoin from it. According to Silk Road staff chat logs seized by investigators, Clark allegedly asked Ulbricht, “At what point in time do we decide we’ve had enough of someones shit, and terminate them?”
At the time of his extradition, the FBI assistant director referred to Clark has “Ulbricht’s right-hand man,” who had also advised the young admin on how to “thwart law enforcement” while “pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process.” Clark was arrested by Thai police in late 2015 and remained jailed in the country until his extradition, almost two and a half years later.
“He has advised me on many technical aspect of what we are doing, helped me speed up the site and squeeze more out of my current servers… He also 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.” – Ross Ulbricht on Variety Jones, from his diary
Clark, a Canadian citizen, pleaded guilty in Feb 2020 of conspiring to distribute massive quantities of narcotics. He was ordered to forfeit over $1.6 million to the US government and also ordered to three years of supervised release upon conclusion of his 20-year sentence.
It is estimated that Silk Road processed around $213 million in transactions between Jan 2011 and Oct 2013; $183 million of which was for drug sales.