18 months after the Silk Road online drug market was busted by law enforcement, the effects caused by the case have now come back around to the DEA: two of the law enforcement agents involved have been charged with crimes related to the offense, one of which is accused of being a paid mole for the Silk Road.
DEA special agent Carl Force and Secret Service special agent Shaun Bridges were arrested on Monday after each being charged with wire fraud and money laundering. Bridges has been charged with diverting $800,000 worth of Bitcoin from the Silk Road seizure into his own Mt. Gox Bitcoin exchange account. This, however, is nothing compared to the accusations brought against Agent Force. In addition to the same charges brought against Bridges, Force has been charged with theft of government property and conflict of interest in his investigation into the Silk Road.
During his time investigating the Silk Road, Force too diverted Bitcoin destined for the government into his own personal fund. In addition, he allegedly was working for the Bitcoin exchange firm CoinMKT, and used his DEA powers to seize a customer’s funds from the exchange, while later abusing his powers further by using a subpoena to the payment firm Venmo to try to unlock his frozen funds there.
Force’s story doesn’t stop there, though. Under an internet identity with the name of “Nob”, the DEA agent chatted with Ulbricht, going as “Dread Pirate Roberts”, according to federal authorities. Force failed to put the private keys and passwords necessary to access these conversations into the case file, and didn’t hand them over to the prosecutor on the Ulbricht case or anyone else in the chain of command in the government.
While he was only authorized to use a single pseudonym, Force also worked under two others, known as “French Maid” and “Death from Above.” These pseudonyms were used to extract money from Ulbricht via blackmail. Suspicion was set off when he was found to be wiring money to an overseas account, while simultaneously investing into property and businesses and paying off all his loans, with just his $150,000/year DEA salary.
Bridges and Force had worked together in the investigation, monitoring the price of Bitcoin together to find the right time to exchange it to dollars.
Force has resigned from the DEA, and Bridges was said to have abruptly resigned from the Secret Service on March 15th, 2015.
Force was arrested on Friday, and will appear in a Maryland federal court, while Bridges surrendered on Monday and will appear in a California federal court.
Read the full Force/Bridges Criminal Complaint here.