A decade on from the dramatic implosion of Silk Road, a fascinating character waits in the wings for his fate to be decided – Roger Clark, the man behind the Variety Jones moniker and the instigator of the now infamous murder-for-hire plots. Or was he?
It’s closing in on ten years since Silk Road shut down, its owner and staff arrested, but still the fallout continues. It’s expected that a few loose ends will be tied up in the coming months, the first of which is the sentencing of one of the most fascinating characters of the case: Roger Clark, aka Plural of Mongoose, aka Variety Jones.
Clark held a pivotal role behind the scenes of Silk Road, advising the Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR). To the majority, he was just a sporadic forum poster and cannabis seed grower. His critical role as DPR’s mentor and his deep understanding of the site’s operations were well-hidden.
The site’s public-facing administrators – Inigo, Libertas, Chronicpain, and Samesamebutdifferent – were blissfully unaware of Variety Jones’ existence, let alone his profound influence over their boss. Variety Jones was the invisible puppeteer, deeply involved in every aspect of Silk Road’s operations, while the admins were given just enough clearance to fulfill their roles.
Ross Ulbricht’s arrest in October 2013 blew the lid off the identities of his key lieutenants, including one Roger Thomas Clark, aka Variety Jones. Clark had a lengthy history in the online drug trade that significantly pre-dated Silk Road. Still, he managed to slip through the December 2013 law enforcement net that caught Inigo, Libertas, and SSBD. In a move that seemed out of character, VJ had uploaded his passport to the site only added a few weeks before Ulbricht’s arrest, despite having been involved in Silk Road almost from the start.
A shocking find in the form of chat logs on Ross Ulbricht’s computer shed light on the extent of Jones’ influence, even suggesting murder as a way to deal with thieving staff and scamming vendors.
On 29 May 2015, Ross Ulbricht received two life sentences without parole, partly due to the content of those messages.
On 3 December 2015, two years after the arrest of the three Silk Road administrators, Roger Thomas Clark, a 54-year-old Canadian, was arrested in a joint operation by the FBI, Homeland Security, DEA, and local Thai police.
Clark put up a fight against extradition to the United States from his Bangkok prison cell, where I paid him several visits. Finally, in June 2018, he was extradited to the United States, where he pled guilty to narcotics charges in January 2020, facing a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Clark’s sentencing has since been delayed for various reasons, from COVID and prison lockdowns, to Clark’s own injuries and illnesses, to legal issues including firing his legal team, lack of access to his files, only being allowed a bendy pen instead of a proper pen, and his legal assistant’s unavailability. The case has seen three judges, and the current one seems to have had enough, pushing for the sentencing to proceed in June.
Clark’s sentencing submission asks for a sentence equivalent to time served. In a twist, he appears to have thrown Ulbricht under the bus regarding the murder-for-hire claims, alleging that the Silk Road boss doctored the chat logs to implicate him.
Quite a turnaround from the promise Jones made to DPR in one of those chats, where he vowed to break him out of prison with a helicopter if it ever came to this.
The numerous sentencing delays has resulted in several cancelled airline tickets from Australia-NYC for me. Hopefully the points flights gods will be good to me this time. If you would care to assist me in getting over there to report ALL the important details, please consider throwing a little crypto my way:
*n.b. this is an exchange address – Only ETH deposits via the standard Ethereum network are accepted. Deposits sent from an unsupported network i.e. Binance Smart Chain, Arbitrum or KCC etc. will not be received and are unrecoverable