Law enforcement agencies continue to crack the whip on operators of darknet markets.
In what is a continuation of what federal agencies started around five years ago, a colleague of Ross William Ulbricht, the founder of Silk Road, has been extradited to the U.S. to answer to charges of his alleged roles in the marketplace.
In a press release by the Department of Justice, it was revealed that Roger Thomas Clark, a 56-year-old Canadian citizen who allegedly served as an adviser to Ulbricht, will appear before a U.S. court later this year.
Roger Thomas Clark’s Role in Silk Road
Because of his relationship with Ulbricht, Clark played an essential role in not only the creation of Silk Road but also the management of the marketplace.
Among the critical decisions that Clark assisted Ulbricht with were the hiring of employees and supervision of staff who were responsible for the development.
The security personnel involved also said that in his capacity as an adviser, Clark would talk to Ulbricht about the best possible strategies to generate maximum profits from the business through promotions.
Clark is also believed to be behind Ulbricht’s decision to use acts of intimidation to get things done.
Other roles include gathering information about the police operations on the market, formulating rules and regulations of how vendors and buyers would use the marketplace and, last but not least, site moderation.
In undertaking his activities on the market, Clark used the pseudonyms Variety Jones (shortened as VJ), Plural of Mongoose and Cimon.
It must be noted here that the way in which darknet market operators use their aliases is entirely up to them, and there are instances where multiple moderators use the same username.
There are also other circumstances where the same moderator uses different aliases, as is the case with Clark. The internal structure is what determines how activities are carried out.
Authorities further revealed that there was a time that Clark advised Ulbricht to create a cover-up story so that it could appear as if Silk Road had changed ownership if the market were to go down.
Because of his roles in the marketplace, Clark was reportedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the services he offered.
The Fall of Silk Road
Silk Road was brought down in October 2013, bringing an end to nearly three years in the limelight.
In the FBI-led operation that took down the market, the authorities managed to arrest Ulbricht at Glen Park Library in San Francisco.
Ulbricht, who used the alias “Dread Pirate Roberts” to conduct activities on Silk Road, was trailed for quite some time and on the day of his arrest, the security personnel confiscated his laptop and seized thousands of Bitcoins.
Other cryptocurrencies which are now common on the dark web were not popular at that time.
The Arrest of Clark and Charges Against Him
Despite the operation that led to the capture of Ulbricht and seizure of his market, it took another two years for security forces in Thailand to get hold of Clark.
From the way the situation is, it seems that Thai authorities have been on his trail from the time Silk Road was shut down to the day that they caught up with him on December 3, 2015.
In an exclusive interview conducted two years ago when Clark was in a legal battle to avoid extradition to the U.S., he revealed that he was confident things would not work similarly as they did with his boss because the circumstances surrounding the arrest were different.
For the case of Ulbricht, he was found with his laptop on, leaving the investigators with all the evidence they required to prosecute him. I
f he got the chance to turn off his machine and further encrypt it, then perhaps things would have been slightly different.
On the other hand, when Clark was arrested, his laptop was off and encrypted using cryptographic keys.
Because of this, authorities were not able to access the content in it, hence the lack of sufficient evidence.
Due to Clark’s numerous roles in Silk Road, he faces multiple charges which may see him spend life in prison without parole, as is the case with Ulbricht.
And if by any chance he is lucky, he may spend a minimum of 10 years in prison.
The charges being leveled against Clark are drug-related offenses including trafficking and distribution of narcotics, conspiracy to take part and to aid in identity theft, as well as computer hacking and money laundering.
Other Things That Authorities Had to Say
In the operation that drew officers from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and of course the FBI, the special agents in charge were pleased about how the operation turned out.
Among the people who made remarks was Geoffrey S. Berman, U.S. attorney for Manhattan.
In his comments, he praised authorities from other countries for the work well done, and it is because of their dedication and spirit that the operation was a success.
Special agent James D. Robnett, from the IRS, also commented that the anonymity on the dark web is not a guarantee of privacy and no matter what one does, they can never be sure that they will stay safe.
In the meantime, he says his team will continue doing whatever they can to unmask criminals involved in the dark web.
Robnett’s sentiments were also echoed by FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney.
He made it clear the extradition of Clark is a clear indication that those who think that they can operate under the radar are wrong because they are within reach of law enforcement agencies.
Angel Melendez, a special agent from HIS, added that the extradition of Clark should serve as a reminder to all criminals who use the dark web.
Melendez also said his team will work with other federal agencies in different capacities to fight darknet crime.