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.
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.
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.