Mentor to Online Drug Trafficker Arrives in U.S. to Face Charges

(Bloomberg) -- A Canadian man described as a mentor to Ross Ulbricht, who operated the Silk Road online drug marketplace under the alias “Dread Pirate Roberts,” was extradited from Thailand to face criminal charges in the U.S.

Roger Thomas Clark, 56, is expected to appear in Manhattan federal court on Friday. He was arrested in Thailand in 2015 and charged with narcotics trafficking and a money-laundering conspiracy and faces as long as life in prison if he’s convicted.

"Silk Road was a secret online marketplace for illegal drugs, hacking services and a whole host of other criminal activity,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. "Clark allegedly served as a trusted confidante to Silk Road founder and operator Ross Ulbricht, advising him on all aspects of this illegal business."

Ulbricht, 34, is serving a life sentence after he was found guilty in 2015 of running Silk Road, where customers used bitcoins to buy illegal drugs and hacker tools, from 2011 to October 2013. His online alias was taken from a character in the 1987 film "The Princess Bride."

Prosecutors said Clark, known online as “Variety Jones,” “VJ,” “Cimon,” and “Plural of Mongoose," advised the younger man on managing Silk Road.

“Him coming onto the scene has re-inspired me and given me direction on the SR project,” Ulbricht said of Variety Jones in a 2011 journal entry that was introduced at his trial. “He has helped me see a larger vision. A brand that people can come to trust and rally behind. Silk Road chat, Silk Road exchange, Silk Road credit union, Silk Road market, Silk Road everything!”

Clark allegedly advocated intimidation and violence to keep Silk Road’s staff in line.

Prosecutors cited a conversation in which Ulbricht discussed a plan to "track down" a Silk Road employee to make sure he hadn’t gone "off the rails." Prosecutors claim Clark commented: "Dude, we’re criminal drug dealers -- what line shouldn’t we cross?"

The case is U.S. v. Clark, 15-mj-01335, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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