On January 30, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) revealed that Roger Clark, the alleged senior advisor to the Silk Road marketplace, pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute massive quantities of narcotics.
Clark, otherwise known as ‘Variety Jones,’ was a unique character within the Silk Road saga who claimed a rogue member of the FBI was on the run extorting him and other darknet market admins and vendors.
SDNY has announced that Roger Clark, who was also known as “Plural of Mongoose” or “Variety Jones”, pled guilty on Thursday for conspiring to distribute illicit narcotics in mass quantities. The law enforcement press release notes that Clark was the senior advisor to the owner and operator of the Silk Road marketplace. According to court filings, Clark also used the online nicknames “Captain Sergeant”, “Plural of Mongoose”, “VJ”, and “Cimon” during his tenure with the darknet market (DNM).
Clark is described as the “real mentor” who advised the Silk Road leader, Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR) about “security vulnerabilities in the Silk Road site, technical infrastructure, and the rules that governed Silk Road users and vendors. SDNY disclosed that they believe Clark also assisted with hiring programmers in order to improve the overall infrastructure of the DNM. Additionally, the agency detailed that Clark gathered intelligence on law enforcement’s efforts to investigate Silk Road.
Roger Clark, otherwise known as Variety Jones, pled guilty for conspiring to distribute illicit narcotics in mass quantities using the original Silk Road marketplace.
Before Clark pled guilty and was arrested and even before he was extradited to the United States from Thailand, Variety Jones and his other aliases were well known pseudonyms online. When Clark played the role of Variety Jones he allegedly found significant security vulnerabilities with the Silk Road’s (SR) platform and told DPR about the issues.
According to law enforcement, Clark was an SR admin between 2011 through 2013.
Allegedly, Clark also rewrote the SR website and changed the look of the marketplace entirely. Reports say that there are more than “1,400 pages” of chat logs between DPR and Variety Jones which is 4x the number of chats DPR had with other senior SR admins. Just before the SR was seized by law enforcement, Variety Jones changed his online pseudonym to Cimon. The 56-year old Clark faces 20 years in prison for his charges and he is scheduled to be sentenced by an SDNY Judge on May 29, 2020.
A Rogue Federal Agent and the Darknet’s Pirate Treasure
Prior to Clark’s arrest, in September 2015, the alleged SR senior advisor wrote the public from Thailand using the monicker “Plural of Mongoose.” The post was found in a DNM forum called Ganja forums and Clark explained he was on the run from global law enforcement. After the SR site was seized, Clark found himself on a “nice secluded beach area in Thailand” and wound up “drinking heavily and living within the solitude of the beach” confines. In April, roughly around the Thai New Year, Clark got a message from an FBI agent who called himself ‘Chrysippus’ or ‘Diamond.’ Clark said that Diamond knew that he was on the run and the agent had a swathe of information in regard to the current status of a few specific DNMs. The former SR senior advisor stressed that Diamond told him about the fall of Atlantis prior to the website’s demise.
In 2015, Clark explained that a federal agent dubbed “Diamond” didn’t get caught like Carl Mark Force and Shaun Bridges did and Diamond was allegedly extorting Clark and other DNM admins.
According to Clark, the FBI agent was also well connected with the two rogue agents Carl Mark Force and Shaun Bridges. Diamond called the agents out for how “stupid they were to do anything but hold onto their ill-gotten gains”, Clark’s Ganja forums post explained. Diamond believed that DPR had a bitcoin wallet that held 300,000 BTC and he thought Clark could extract information on how to obtain the wallet. He promised Clark he would keep him safe and free from authorities if he helped and he told Clark eventually he planned to retire as a federal officer in a “tax-friendly jurisdiction.”
Federal agents Carl Mark Force and Shaun Bridges were caught red-handed stealing BTC from the SR investigation and sentenced to prison for less than 10 years.
Silk Road Investigation Shows Prominent Double Agent Manipulation and Poor Ethics by Law Enforcement
Diamond also informed Clark that he was extorting existing DNM admins and vendors and he acquired $4 million dollars from his “extra-curricular activities.” After these chats, Clark noticed the fall of the DNM Evolution and he found out law enforcement officials were searching Thailand for his whereabouts. Clark believed Diamond set him up and Thai police had told him he had a bounty on his head for 20,000 Thai bahts. Over a bottle of Sangsom, he left the police with 50,000 bahts and informed Diamond that his trap had failed.
Clark’s story in 2015 reminds the public that the SR investigation was riddled with double agents and bad ethics by law enforcement officials. During an interview last year, Kathryn Haun, a former prosecutor for the Attorney General’s office, explained how the double agents Force and Bridges were caught.
After the post was published in 2015, Clark wasn’t heard from again for quite some time and he was eventually arrested in Thailand. Police filings state that Clark was an SR admin between January 2011 through October 2013 and he fled just before SR was seized. U.S. officials thanked the Royal Thai Police for their support and assistance with apprehending Clark. If the story Clark told in 2015 holds weight, then it’s possible other rogue law enforcement officials besides Force and Bridges are still at liberty. During an interview with CNBC, Kathryn Haun, a former prosecutor for the Attorney General’s office, explained how the SR investigation was riddled with patterns of bad behavior and double agents. The interview highlights how the majority of the SR investigation evidence was based on the shameful ethics of rogue law enforcement officials. Circumstantial evidence shows Clark’s tale of a perfidious agent extorting darknet markets is likely true.
According to Clark’s story, Diamond was planning to extort Agora admins too, but the marketplace owners caught on and silently shut the market down. Over the last year and a half, DNM markets and associated forums like Dread have been attacked regularly by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. Throughout 2019-2020, there have been at least three major DNM exit scams since the start of the heavy DDoS assaults against these markets. Moreover, since 2017, three of the largest DNMs created after SR – Alphabay, Hansa, and Dream market – are gone now as well.