The office of the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced on Friday the successful extradition of Roger Thomas Clark, alleged senior adviser to the owner and operator of the infamous ‘Silk Road’ website.
Clark is a Canadian citizen, and was extradited from Thailand. According to the press release, Clark stands accused of a long list of crimes relating to narcotics trafficking, fraudulent identification documents trafficking, computer hacking, and money laundering. If convicted he will serve a minimum of 10 years imprisonment and a maximum of life.
Silk Road was a website founded in 2011 by a Texan man named Ross Ulbricht (now 34 years old). It was an online marketplace that maintained user anonymity by use of software called Tor. Transactions were made using Bitcoin. The site was operational from February 2011 until October 2013, when it was shut down by the FBI.
The US government seized 144,336 bitcoins and made $48 million by auctioning them off in September 2017. Had the authorities held on for slightly longer, much more could have been made; however, a Justice Department spokeswoman told CNBC at the time that the government wasn’t looking for an investment opportunity.
The government says that it was shut down because it was used to buy and sell illegal items and services such as drugs, fake IDs, and murder. Others argue that it was a legitimate experiment in libertarianism that was closed because it operated outside of government control.
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Either way, Ulbricht was eventually arrested in a sting operation at a public library and convicted of money laundering, computer hacking, and conspiracy to traffic narcotics. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, and his appeals have so far been rejected.
According to the attorney’s office, Ulbricht described Clark (AKA “Variety Jones” / “VJ” / “Cimon” / “Plural of Mongoose”) as a “real mentor”. It alleges that Clark gave all manner of technical assistance to Ulbricht, from helping with site development and security to helping Ulbricht develop a cover story and gathering information regarding investigations into the website.
The communication alleges that Clark, age 56, was paid at least hundreds of thousands of dollars for his assistance in operating Silk Road. For context, the FBI claims to have seized $28.5 million in Bitcoin from Ulbricht at the time of his arrest.
An interesting development in the case was two undercover agents who had worked on the case being imprisoned for stealing Silk Road bitcoins.
Geoffrey S. Berman, US Attorney of Manhattan, said: “Silk Road was a secret online marketplace for illegal drugs, hacking services, and a whole host of other criminal activity. Roger Thomas Clark allegedly served as a trusted confidante to Silk Road founder and operator Ross Ulbricht, advising him on all aspects of this illegal business, including how to maximize profits and use threats of violence to thwart law enforcement. Thanks to the investigative work of our fellow law enforcement agencies and our international partners, Clark now faces justice in an American court.”
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “Whether on the streets or on the Internet, the illegality of selling unlawful goods remains unchanged. Under the operation of Ross Ulbricht, the Silk Road was a criminal hub for illicit goods and services. As Ulbricht’s right-hand man, Roger Clark allegedly advised him of methods to thwart law enforcement during the operation of this illegal ploy, pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process. Today’s extradition of Roger Clark shows that despite alleged attempts to operate under the radar, he was never out of our reach.”