FBI Says Suspected Silk Road Architect Variety Jones Has Been Arrested
Roger Thomas Clark was arrested in Thailand, and is pending extradition to the US.
The man suspected of being a "senior adviser" to Ross Ulbricht, the convicted creator of the drug marketplace Silk Road, has been arrested, according to the United States Attorney's Office.
Roger Thomas Clark is accused of being "Variety Jones," according to a press release, and allegedly was "a close confidante of Ulbricht's who advised on all aspects of Silk Road's operations and helped him grow the site into an extensive criminal enterprise."
In September, Motherboard published an extensive investigation into the identity of Variety Jones, linking the online alias to a Roger or Thomas Clark.
Clark was arrested in Thailand on December 3, and is pending extradition to the US, the release continues. The release claims that Clark also used the aliases of "VJ," "Cimon," and "Plural of Mongoose," and that he was paid "hundreds of thousands of dollars" for his work on Silk Road.
Clark, a 54-year-old Canadian citizen, is charged with one count of narcotics conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, and one count of money laundering conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
"As this arrest proves, the 'long arm of the law' has a great reach—even in cyberspace."
"Roger Clark, a high-ranking Silk Road operator, served as Ross Ulbricht's closest adviser and confidante as together they facilitated an anonymous global black market for all things illegal," James M. Gibbons, a Homeland Security Investigations Chicago special agent who worked on the investigation, said in a statement. "As this arrest proves, the 'long arm of the law' has a great reach—even in cyberspace."
Variety Jones joined the Silk Road in 2011, and was known publicly as a vendor of marijuana seeds. But in private conversations with Ulbricht, he acted as the site's in-house penetration tester, financial advisor, and in Ulbricht's own words, a "mentor."
Variety Jones even came up with the now infamous moniker Dread Pirate Roberts, or DPR, which Ulbricht took on.
"[He] was the biggest and strongest willed character I had met through the site thus far," Ulbricht wrote in a 2011 journal entry.
Variety Jones was also the one who encouraged Ulbricht to carry out his first attempted murder-for-hire, which targeted an ex-employee. (No one was actually killed, and the plot was in fact the brainchild of Carl Mark Force IV, a corrupt Drug Enforcement Administration investigator.)
When the Silk Road was shut down by law enforcement in October 2013, Variety Jones disappeared.
The press release alleges that "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," it continues.
On Friday morning, hours before the FBI's announcement, this reporter was contacted by someone who claimed that Roger Thomas Clark had been arrested this week in Koh Chang, Thailand.
That individual claimed to have been provided with a copy of the request between the US Embassy in Thailand and the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs to have Roger Thomas Clark extradited to the United States. The document includes a stamp saying "Certified Copy, Signed Mr. Rongrat Poomkacha, Attorney at the Office of Attorney General of Thailand."
"Clark is wanted to stand trial in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York," a section of the document reads, and that "Clark is believed to be currently residing on Koh Chang Island, Thailand." This is the location that Motherboard traced Variety Jones to.
The document goes on to say that Clark has been charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics, that a warrant had been issued for his arrest, and that a complaint was issued on April 21, 2015. Motherboard was able to confirm that a complaint under the case number cited in the apparent extradition request was indeed filed on April 21, in the Southern District of New York.
A US Department of Justice spokesperson would not comment on the legitimacy of this document, and the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to emails or phone calls, although the language used in the document is similar to other, authenticated extradition requests.
Years after the shuttering of the Silk Road, and the rise and fall of dozens upon dozens of other dark web marketplaces, the characters that helped build the original continue to make headlines. More revelations are sure to follow over the coming weeks and months.
The full press release is here:
Sarah Jeong and Ryn Jirenuwat contributed reporting.