In the shadowy world of the Silk Road, ‘Variety Jones’ was more than a pseudonym. On Tuesday, the man behind the alias, Roger Thomas Clark, was handed a 20-year prison sentence. US prosecutors charged Clark, an adviser to Silk Road, with a plot to disperse a gargantuan amount of narcotics through Bitcoin transactions. Clark’s unsavory payday? A whopping $1.6 million, which he’s now been ordered to relinquish.
The enigmatic Silk Road founder, Ross Ulbricht, had a mentor in Clark. Throughout Ulbricht’s trial, which resulted in his double life sentence for running the illicit marketplace, Clark’s advisory role came into the spotlight. Crypto enthusiasts have vocally criticized Ulbricht’s hefty sentence and have even fundraised for his release.
According to a Tuesday statement from the Southern District of New York, Clark’s advisory duties also included devising schemes to “safeguard the Silk Road empire.” This included suggesting Ulbricht hire a hitman to dispose of an employee accused of pocketing a cool $350,000.
Clark was instrumental in the inner workings of Silk Road, an infamous Bitcoin-driven marketplace on the Tor network, notorious for global trading of illegal goods and services. Ulbricht’s personal journal, a key piece of evidence, praised Clark as a “real mentor.” Clark’s fingerprints were all over the Silk Road’s infrastructure, from setting rules to devising promotions and aiding Ulbricht in eluding the prying eyes of the law.
After being extradited from Thailand where he was previously incarcerated, Clark stood trial in the US. The Silk Road, active from 2011 to 2013, gained notoriety for its Bitcoin-based anonymous transactions, attracting law enforcement’s attention worldwide. Earlier this year, the US government auctioned off over 9,800 Bitcoin related to the Silk Road, netting around $215 million. This trove was linked to hacker James Zhong, sentenced in April for wire fraud related to the Silk Road saga.