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VIP at illegal-drug site Silk Road nabbed in Thailand, police say

A 54-year-old Canadian man arrested this week served as the "closest advisor" to Silk Road founder "Dread Pirate Roberts," according to law enforcement.

The right-hand man of Ross Ulbricht -- convicted mastermind of Silk Road, the notorious online bazaar for illegal drugs -- has been arrested in Thailand, according to law enforcement officials.

The US Department of Justice said Friday that Roger Thomas Clark, aka "Variety Jones," had been apprehended Thursday and is awaiting extradition to the United States.

The Justice Department alleges that the 54-year-old Canadian citizen helped Ulbricht with everything from staying out of the hands of police to creating rules for Silk Road's users to strengthening the site's technical infrastructure.

Before being shut down by police, the Silk Road website served as a trading post for illegal drugs like cocaine, as well as other outlawed goods. Another of the site's key players has just been apprehended, according to officials.

Wavebreak Media Ltd./Corbis

Clark served as Ulbricht's "closest adviser and confidante as together they facilitated an anonymous global black market for all things illegal," James Gibbons, an agent with the Department of Homeland Security, was quoted as saying in a statement from the Justice Department.

The 31-year-old Ulbricht, alias "Dread Pirate Roberts," was sentenced in May to life in prison for his role in Silk Road, which operated from 2011 to 2013 before being shut down by police.

The marketplace, characterized by law enforcement as the most extensive criminal bazaar on the Internet, relied on technologies that would supposedly hide the identities of its users and creators. The site was used by thousands of drug dealers and others to sell hundreds of kilograms of drugs and other contraband and to launder hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues, the Justice Department said in its statement.

Clark himself made at least hundreds of thousands of dollars in his position at Silk Road, the Justice Department claims. In addition to assistance with the site, Clark allegedly helped Ulbricht keep other Silk Road staff in line, advising that they be threatened with violence to keep them from going to police. Federal prosecutors claim that at one point Ulbricht and Clark discussed "tracking down" a certain staffer to be sure he hadn't "gone off the rails." In that exchange, Clark allegedly said, "Dude, we're criminal drug dealers -- what line shouldn't we cross?"

Clark has been charged with one count of narcotics conspiracy, with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life, and with one count of money laundering conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.