Roger Thomas Clark Was a Key Figure in the Development of Silk Road and Advised Ross Ulbricht on All Aspects of the Criminal Enterprise
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, James D. Robnett, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (“IRS-CI”), William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced today the unsealing of an Indictment charging ROGER THOMAS CLARK, who was a senior adviser to Ross Ulbricht, a/k/a “Dread Pirate Roberts,” a/k/a “DPR,” the owner and operator of the “Silk Road” online illicit black market that operated from January 2011 until October 2, 2013.
During its operation, Silk Road was used by thousands of drug dealers and other unlawful vendors to distribute illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services to over a hundred thousand buyers, and to launder hundreds of millions of dollars derived from those unlawful transactions. CLARK was a close confidante of Ulbricht’s who advised him on all aspects of Silk Road’s operations, and who hired and managed a staff of computer programmers who helped develop Silk Road’s technical infrastructure. CLARK was arrested in Thailand on December 3, 2015, and was extradited to the United States today. CLARK is expected to be presented this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein. CLARK’s case is assigned to U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman 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.”
IRS-CI Special Agent-in-Charge James D. Robnett said: “The unsealed indictment again shows that the supposed anonymity of the dark web is not a protective shield from prosecution. Working with our law enforcement partners, IRS-CI used its unique financial and cyber expertise to help shine a bright light on a shadowy black marketplace, and we intend to continue pursuing these kinds of criminals no matter where they hide.”
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.”
HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Angel M. Melendez said: “The extradition of this man today should be a reminder to those who think they can hide within the confines of the dark web, that you are never out of reach of the long arm of the law. These investigations are important in combatting the illicit drug market and we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to fight this fight.”
According to the allegations contained in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court, the previously unsealed criminal complaint, and evidence presented at Ulbricht’s trial in January and February 2015:
Ulbricht created Silk Road in approximately January 2011, and owned and operated the underground website until it was shut down by law enforcement authorities in October 2013. Silk Road emerged as the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet at the time, serving as a sprawling black-market bazaar where unlawful goods and services, including illegal drugs of virtually all varieties, were bought and sold regularly by the site’s users. While in operation, Silk Road was used by thousands of drug dealers and other unlawful vendors to distribute hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs and other unlawful goods and services to well over 100,000 buyers, and to launder hundreds of millions of dollars deriving from these unlawful transactions.
Silk Road enabled its users to buy and sell drugs and other illegal goods and services anonymously and outside the reach of law enforcement. Silk Road was operated on what is known as “The Onion Router,” or “Tor” network, a special network of computers on the Internet, distributed around the world, designed to conceal the true IP addresses of the computers on the network and thereby the identities of the network’s users. Silk Road also included a Bitcoin-based payment system that served to facilitate the illegal commerce conducted on the site, including by concealing the identities and locations of the users transmitting and receiving funds through the site.
CLARK – who went by the online nicknames “Variety Jones,” “VJ,” “Cimon,” and “Plural of Mongoose” – was described by Ulbricht as a “real mentor” who advised Ulbricht about, among other things, security vulnerabilities in the Silk Road site, technical infrastructure, management of the Silk Road users, and operating in a manner to attempt to thwart law enforcement. CLARK provided advice to Ulbricht on developing a “cover story” to make it appear as though Ulbricht had sold Silk Road, and also assisted with hiring programmers to help improve the infrastructure of, and maintain, Silk Road. CLARK also communicated at length with Ulbricht regarding the rules that governed Silk Road vendors and users, and regarding the promotion of sales on Silk Road, including the sales of narcotics. CLARK also was responsible for gathering information on law enforcement’s efforts to investigate Silk Road.
CLARK was paid at least hundreds of thousands of dollars for his assistance in operating Silk Road.
CLARK, 56, a citizen of Canada, is charged with narcotics trafficking conspiracy; narcotics trafficking; distributing narcotics by means of the internet; conspiracy to commit, and aid and abet, a computer hacking conspiracy; conspiracy to traffic in fraudulent identification documents; and money laundering conspiracy. If convicted, he faces, among other penalties, a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
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Mr. Berman praised the outstanding joint efforts of the FBI and its New York Special Operations and Cyber Division, HSI Chicago-O’Hare, the DEA’s New York Field Division, and IRS-CI’s New York Field Office. Mr. Berman also thanked the HSI Attache Bangkok, Thailand, for its assistance and support. Mr. Berman also thanked the Royal Thai Police and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for their support and assistance.
This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael D. Neff, Richard Cooper, and Timothy T. Howard are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Complaint and the Indictment are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.