Alleged Key Advisor To Silk Road, Variety Jones, In Thai Prison

thai-prisonAnd so the ongoing Silk Road saga continues…

Three years after the demise of the original darknet market, we’re still caught up in the turmoil surrounding the eponymous online black market.

Roger Thomas Clark, allegedly one-time right-hand man to the owner of Silk Road, has been in prison in Thailand a long nine months. Considering the conditions in jails across numerous countries in South East Asia, this is no mean feat.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Silk Road 3.0 is BACK ONLINE and open for business. The team did a massive security overhaul on the site to try and make it more secure and anonymous.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3.0 Guide <<

Silk Road

But who is Roger Thomas Clark, and why is he seemingly rotting away in a Thai jail?

The answer lies in a convoluted mess of tiny bits of evidence – evidence obtained across the course of nailing the owner of Silk Road – one Ross Ulbricht aka “Dread Pirate Roberts.”

Ulbricht is currently serving life in prison after being convicted of charges including money laundering, conspiracy to traffic narcotics, and computer hacking.

Ulbricht was the brains behind the world’s first darknet market. Silk Road was launched in early 2011. Running over the Tor network, the online marketplace offered people a chance to buy and sell online in a completely anonymous fashion.

While built around the idea of a completely free market, in reality, the marketplace was a veritable haven for the trade of illegal goods and services including drugs.

With noble aspirations, Ulbricht descended into something far greater than himself and found himself ordering hits to protect his data assets and identity.

Ulbricht was caught mainly due to infiltration by an FBI agent, who was later found to have been dirty after siphoning hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bitcoin into his own accounts.

The plot really reads more like something out of a Hollywood movie.

Variety Jones

variety-jonesBut how, exactly, does Roger fit into the picture?

Roger Thomas Clark is allegedly “Variety Jones,” a key individual involved in the day to day operations of the Silk Road marketplace.

Variety Jones originally joined Silk Road in 2011, as a marijuana seed vendor.

Communications between Dread Pirate Roberts and Variety Jones, obtained from logs on machines of Ulbricht himself reveal a clever, worldly confidant, advisor, and manager in Variety Jones.

Variety Jones was a skilled technologist, and over the course of time became heavily involved with running Silk Road and advising Dread Pirate Roberts on murky areas related to business.

This even involved suggesting to DPR taking out a hit on people who were a danger to the working of the business. Variety Jones was DPR’s right-hand man – the go-to sounding board when things became unclear in business.

The man himself

Roger Thomas Clark currently sits in a prison in the country’s capital, Bangkok, while the US makes attempts to extradite him. Roger, at 55, doesn’t appear to the naked eye to be a devious international criminal.

And in terms of evidence against him, it is unclear just how much the US authorities have. When Roger was arrested and his assets seized, unlike Ulbricht, all his files were encrypted.

While there’s a trail of evidence that seems to lead towards him, just what they’ve got remains a mystery for now. Clark remains committed to fighting extradition attempts. After the life sentencing of Ulbricht, it’s easy to see why.

Extradition remains almost certainly a life sentence for Clark. The charges the US government is accusing him of include narcotics conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, where the outcome if convicted is likely life in prison.

A recent interview

advisor-in-prisonRecently, Ars Technica has been taking the time to interview Clark, both in the visitors’ section of the Bangkok Remand Prison, and listening in to the man while on his way to the courthouse in Bangkok to continue fighting extradition attempts.

And while Clark doesn’t seem to be proclaiming his innocence too much, he does raise another very valid point about the investigation.

“Guilt is a technical term,” he says, “They don’t have s*** on me.” This raises the point in the US that evidence needs to be shown that the accused is guilty without a reasonable doubt.

“Forensics could spend 30 years trying to decrypt those hard drives and still not get anywhere,” Clark says matter-of-factly.

Just what is on those hard drives will perhaps not be known for many, many years, which may indeed have put the US investigation into the matter on a bit of a deep freeze.

What’s next?

Clark alludes to friends in high places in South East Asian governments, deals with officials, and military information. It’s almost like a mystery novel.

The man is clever, for sure, and remains optimistic about his chances in Thailand.

The jail hasn’t beat Clark like it does for so many other foreigners who wind up in the prison system there.

Perhaps it’s because of the groundswell of support from those in the online community, or perhaps it’s because of his inherent nature.

Perhaps it’s just because of the genuine love of the country that Clark has acquired over his years of living in the country – it’s hard not to like, with its sun-drenched personality.

For the moment, Clark remains in a sort of international limbo. While conditions in Thai jail are surely not ideal, it beats the alternative for Clark.

We will have to see just what happens in this case and whether extradition attempts will be successful.

Whether the amount of evidence against Clark is enough to get him onto US shores, or whether the Thai government deems him too important to the country to free is yet to be seen.

All that is known is that Roger Thomas Clark fights on.

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New Charges Filed Against Silk Road’s “Variety Jones”

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3 Guide <<

And so, the Silk Road saga continues.

More than two years after Ross Ulbricht, aka Dread Pirate Roberts, was arrested in an unsuspecting San Francisco library for his role behind the Silk Road dark web marketplace, another alleged major player in the story has been charged. (Ulbricht has subsequently been sentenced to life in prison.)

police handcop

Variety Jones, a figure that emerged during Ross Ulbricht’s trial, was charged a few short weeks ago with conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit narcotics trafficking. These charges carry maximum terms of 20 years and life, respectively.

New charges added to the criminal complaint by the US Department of Justice on December 18th include narcotics trafficking, narcotics distribution via the internet, conspiracy to distribute fraudulent ID documents, and conspiracy to aid and abet hacking. It is unclear just how many criminal charges in total will be laid against Variety Jones in regards to his part in the Silk Road marketplace.

The man that the Department of Justice alleges is Variety Jones is a 54-yr. old Canadian by the name of Roger Thomas Clark. Clark was arrested in Thailand on December 3rd, where he has been suspected of living for the past few years on the picturesque island of Koh Chang.

Clark is now sitting in a Thai jail cell attempting to fight extradition charges, according to his lawyer.

But how were authorities lead to Clark? And how does Variety Jones fit into the picture?

During Ulbricht’s trial, chat logs and Ulbricht’s journal were uncovered that pointed to a figure – Variety Jones and his various pseudonyms – as a key player in the Silk Road empire. Variety Jones emerged as a firmly entrenched business mentor to Ulbricht, and even suggested his Dread Pirate Roberts name.

The pair met through the Silk Road marketplace, where Variety Jones was a well-respected marijuana seed dealer. In late 2011, Variety Jones uncovered a flaw in the marketplace and immediately informed Ulbricht. Conversations lead to a significant server configuration change, and the relationship was established.

From there, the two became close, with Variety Jones making various business suggestions regarding the marketplace and its future. Jones was even the first person to suggest that Ulbricht “make a hit” on someone – which ultimately failed due to the hitman actually being a corrupt law enforcement officer trying to bring about the downfall of both Ulbricht and Silk Road.

Ulbricht and Variety Jones plotted to turn Silk Road into a “Google-like” structure, with encrypted web mail, a credit union, and Bitcoin exchange. This project was not to come to fruition.

That corrupt law enforcement officer, along with other efforts, ended up being the downfall of Silk Road and ultimately Ulbricht himself. After identifying Variety Jones as a key player during the trial, both the internet (via user La Moustache), and presumably law enforcement, went to work trying to identify the mysterious figure behind the Variety Jones name.

Efforts via a combination of studying collapsed Mt. Gox exchange user databases, Bitcoin blockchain records, investigative journalism, and possibly even good old fashioned hacking, uncovered a trail leading back to Thailand and the 54-yr. old Roger Thomas Clark.

Variety Jones, it seemed, had been involved in selling marijuana seeds for some time. His business wasn’t simply established when Silk Road came online. He was linked to forum posts in 2006 on a popular site for seed sellers, and then travelled in 2008 to the island of Koh Chang to source a very particular strain of marijuana seed. In later years he continued posting on various marijuana forums, even supposedly currently making posts from his Thai jail cell via a secret hidden mobile phone.

An early adopter of selling via the dark web marketplace, Variety Jones was conducting business in Bitcoin since the early days of its appearance. It appears he was a key figure in growing the Silk Road marketplace and acted as a mentor to Ulbricht.

For now, Clark is awaiting his fate, still sitting in an undesirable Thai cell packed with other prisoners. Ulbricht is in jail attempting to appeal his convictions. A third major figure behind Silk Road, Smedley, the website’s key coder, remains a mystery for now.

thailand BoatIt is likely that Clark will be extradited to the United States from Thailand to face all charges laid against him. It will be interesting to see how the trial plays out, especially considering the sentencing previously applied to Ulbricht. Silk Road and its creators have fallen from grace, and it appears the deep web isn’t as anonymous as we’d like it to be.

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Alleged Silk Road Architect Arrested In Thailand

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3 Guide <<

The United States authorities last week arrested a man believed to be Variety Jones, the pseudonym that has long been associated with the brains behind the Silk Road drug marketplace.

silkroad website

In a release sent out to newsrooms on Friday by the US attorney’s Office, the unsealing of a complaint against Variety Jones, whose real name is Roger Thomas Clark, that says that Jones was the mentor to Ross Ulbricht, the Silkroad creator. He was apprehended on 3rd December 2015 in Thailand and is currently awaiting extradition.

According to the US Attorney’s Office, Clark was described by Ulbricht as trusted mentor who counseled him about improving and also expanding the technical infrastructure of Silkroad. Part of Clark’s roles included:

  •  Assisting Ulbricht hire and even manage an IT specialist to help with projects
  • Helping Ross Ulbricht to not only develop but also enforce rules that governed the way Silkroad users and vendors would conduct business on the website, which was designed in such a way as to maximize commissions Ulbricht got from Silkroad sales.
  • Educating him on the best way to hide his involvement in, as well as his profits from, Silkroad operation, which included helping Ulbricht formulate cover-up stories and come up with plans to obtain offshore bank accounts and foreign citizenships.
  • Counseling Ulbricht on the best tactics and techniques to fend off efforts by law enforcement authorities to investigate Silkroad.
  • Championing the use of threats and intimidation to dissuade Silkroad staff members from cooperating with the law enforcement agencies.

The Attorney’s Office tells of one conversation in which Variety Jones (real name Roger Thomas Clark) and Ross Ulbricht discussed how to track down one employee of Silkroad just to ensure that he did not go off the rails. The alleged response from Clark is: “Dude, we’re criminal drug dealers – what line shouldn’t we cross?” That’s the version of the story according to Attorney’s Office.
Aged 54 years, Clark is a Canadian citizen. He has been charged with money laundering and narcotics conspiracy. Other than serving as the mentor, penetration tester and a financial advisor to Ulbricht, Variety Jones was also said to be the one who encouraged Ulbricht to carry out the first of six attempted murder-for-hire. The attempts are not known to have absolutely led to victims. As a matter of fact, one of the so-called hitmen contracted by Ulbricht turned out to be working as an undercover agent.

The chat logs and emails recovered from Ulbricht computer show that Silkroad had great ambitions. Prior to the takedown of the site, projects that were being undertaken included the development of an encrypted mail service known as Silk Mail as well as Bitcoin exchange.

As a matter of fact, the main goal of Silk Road was to come up with an ecosystem that had as much products and services as Google. This is the excerpt:

“A major part of value of the project will not necessarily be from direct revenues but instead in brand recognition. The vast majority of Google revenues are derived from PPC ads, it is still able to provide free world class email for people just because it is interested in bringing them into their ecosystem. Hopefully, Silk Mail will do the same thing to Silk Road, and this will likely be our main revenue source.”

According to Ulbricht, this is the vision that Variety Jones helped him see, he wrote:

A brand people could come to rally behind and trust. Silkroad exchange, Silkroad chat, Silkroad market, Silkroad credit Union, Silkroad everything!

The Attorney’s Office believes that Clark got at least several hundreds of thousands of bucks for the role he played in running Silkroad.

Diego Rodriguez, the FBI Assistant Director, stated in the release that the arrest of Clark proves that neither Thailand nor Tor can keep criminals from the US law enforcement agencies.

Silkroad was launched way back in 2011 in what remains to be known as the Dark Web, also referred to as the shady underground of internet. The site operated as a hidden service which allowed people to browse on it anonymously as well as illegally order drugs, assassination services and steroids using Bitcoin.

In February 2015, Ross Ulbricht, the founder of Silkroad, was convicted on seven charges and was sentenced to life in prison.

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Corrupt FBI Agent Allegedly Threatens Former Silk Road Architect

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3 Guide <<

On Wednesday 27th September 2015, a man believed by many to be the orchestrator of Silkroad has made a slew of accusations against a person he suspects to be an FBI employee.

Man with GunVariety Jones, who many believe to be the Silkroad architectas well as a mentor to Silkroad creator Ross Ulbricht, accuses the unnamed rogue FBI agent of threatening to kill him and also torture Ulbricht’s mother and sister if he did not help him get the pass phrase to Silkroad bitcoin wallet estimated to be worth around $70 million.

The unnamed FBI agent uses a pseudonym of Diamond, and has been accused by Jones of among other things, leaking sensitive information and extorting dark web owners for bitcoin.

According to Variety Jones, Diamond believed that his involvement in creating Silkroad could be of use to him to gain access to the Silkroad bitcoin funds. Jones alleges that he wanted him to relocate to Singapore where the agent could then set up a safe house for him. The rogue agent assured him that he would help him be clear of the clutches of the feds. Jones wrote this information on MyPlantGanja forum.

Jones says that when he refused to cooperate with Diamond to help him obtain keys for the encrypted wallet, the threats became more serious every day.

He says that the rogue agent started to get nastier and nastier every day, because he did not cooperate in assisting him obtain the keys to encrypted wallet.

“I knew he was serious with his regular threats. If I didn’t do as he asked, or ended up in custody of any authority, he would use his power and authority to get me killed,” said Jones.

Leaked sensitive information

Jones also claims that Diamond gave him classified information regarding Silkroad investigations upfront. Specifically, Jones cites the information about former Silkroad special agents Shaun Bridges and Carl Mark Force IV, two US law enforcement officers who were charged for transferring Silkroad seized funds to their private accounts during the investigation into Silkroad. Given that only high-ranking FBI members have the authority and power over this kind of information, Jones was convinced that Diamond was indeed an FBI agent.

Jones claimed that he was approached by an FBI agent under online pseudonym who then provided inside info on FBI investigations before such information was made public. Diamond was very determined to gain access to the Silkroad bitcoin wallet that contained an estimated 300,000 BTC. These previously belonged to Ross Ulbricht, the convicted creator of Silkroad.

Bitcoins

When Variety Jones showed hesitation to help Diamond gain access to the Silkroad bitcoin wallet, the agent threatened to kidnap Ulbricht’s sister and mother and then torture them until the Silkroad creator revealed the password, this is according to one of his forum posts.

As evidence, Jones provided Diamond’s TorChat ID on his forum post. Although the ID is active, the person behind it didn’t immediately respond to messages.

Jones said that he made contact with the Assistant U.S. Attorney General for Southern District of New York to warn him of Diamond’s actions. This is the officer who was in charge of prosecuting Silkroad creator Ross Ulbricht.

The FBI is not taking the matter lightly.

The FBI released a statement about the whole situation, saying that they are aware of claims that were made by Variety Jones. Through an emailed statement, the FBI says that they have already forwarded the allegations to the right offices for further review. The agency treats claims of employee misconduct seriously as their mission is to always uphold the rule of law.

Jones has since turned himself in to the authorities believing that his life was in danger if he didn’t do so.

Trapping Diamond

Trapping DiamondAfter realizing that Diamond was a powerful and a high-ranking officer of the FBI, Jones began to look for ways of catching him so that he would reveal his real identity.

He began looking for opportunities to ensnare Diamond on Agora Marketplace when he came across the tiniest bit of evidence about his identity. But the shutting down of Agora on April 26 was a huge blow as it took away the only real chance of unmasking the rogue agent.

Having seen the last chance of trapping Diamond gone, Jones thought it better to surrender himself to the feds, in return for protection. He cautioned Ulbricht’s family members and also asked the FBI to ensure that Diamond does not kidnap Ulbricht’s sister or mother and that Silkroad creator Ross Ulbricht is not under any harm from Diamond’s cronies.

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DPR Mentor To Be Back Online

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3 Guide <<

Dread Pirate RobertsThe mentor of the clandestine operator of Silkroad, Ross Ulbricht (also known as Dread Pirate Roberts), has appeared back online after a long stint of silence. Apart from being his advisor, Variety Jones also made key financial and security decisions on the Silkroad during its operations. He further tried to expand the Silkroad portfolio to other sectors such as installation of encrypted email service.

Based on information sourced from backup logs, Jones had last been active the time Silkroad was being shut down after a sanctioned federal embargo. Thereafter, he maintained a low profile and did not appear on any Silkroad public forum until recently.

The research conducted by an independent researcher by the name of “La Moustache” determined that Variety Jones is likely Roger or Thomas Clark. Though web data showed his account to be operational, efforts to chat with Jones/Clark were unfruitful.

Moreover, another of his old usernames “Plural of Mongoose” has been resurrected on a popular cannabis forum. This is the moniker that led researcher La Moustache to track down Variety Jones, after he started posting long, auto-biographical writings about himself.

Though it’s still uncertain as to where the physical location of Plural of Mongoose is, one of his recent posts hints that he’ll be going somewhere or making a journey of some sort. Which suggests that he might be headed to prison. The man wrote “I’ve got this trip planned…” and he’s looking forward to exploring the big city though not yet sure where to stay upon arrival. Mr. Jones ends the message by giving a chilling premonition that it could be a “state of the art” facility he’s going to, if readers actually know what he means.

It seems as if he has logged back to his old account, with the sole aim of communicating with old contacts before making the alleged trip. Assuming this account is being run by the original owner, and not a third party individual. Variety Jones says he has no idea when he’ll be back from the voyage, which is why the account was revived to have some little conversation with former Silkroad friends, enemies and acquaintances alike before going away.

The posts, some containing as much as 3,000 words, explain how “Plural of Mongoose” was arrested after being found running an underground cannabis business in UK, amongst other related crimes. At one point, Jones even identifies himself as “Roger Thomas Clark,” which were the same names uncovered by researcher La Moustache. Despite these revelations the FBI have not yet given any response as to their next course of action.

During his active years at the Silkroad, Variety played an important role in pointing out security holes on the site which needed immediate fixing. As the Silkroad platform steadily grew, he soon became a staffer and right-hand man of founder Ulbricht.

Silk Road MarketplaceDue to Jones’s influence, Ross who was operating under the pseudonym of DPR began appreciating just how popular the Silkroad brand could get. In one of his uncovered journals, Ulbricht writes that the man helped him develop a bigger picture of their operations. He helped DPR navigate through uncharted waters which led to further expansion of the website, such as opening of Silkroad exchange, chat, credit union and lottery participation programs.

Recent revelations show that before the federal investigations into Silkroad started, Jones was already planning to shape the Silkroad site into a stronger more tamper-proof entity which could survive years of intense security searches. In fact, there are more than 1,400 chat log pages between Variety Jones and Dread Pirate Roberts. That figure is at least 4 times more than all messages connecting DPR with other employees on the Silkroad platform, clearly showing their business relations were more detailed.

Jones later changed his Silkroad name to Cimon and was present during its active years, giving the operator tips on how to expand until it reached its heydays as the primary online drug bazaar. Ulbricht sought advice from Jones because he was good at adding his own personal touch to the fast emerging Silkroad market. From his activities till date, it’s apparent that Variety Jones has a habit of changing his online moniker every so often, maybe in a bid to confuse federal agents.

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