A couple of now-former federal agents who were part of the investigation into Silk Road — an online black market involved in drug trafficking which was dismantled by the authorities, resulting in the seizure of what was valued at the time to be more than $33 million worth of the crypto-currency known as Bitcoin — have been charged in San Francisco federal court with stealing bitcoins, according to a Department of Justice (DoJ) release published on Monday.
CNN indicated in a report that prosecutors had identified the agents charged with the Bitcoin theft as 46-year-old special agent Carl Force with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and 32-year-old special agent Shaun Bridges with the U.S. Secret Service. Both agents are now former-agents in light of their alleged crimes and subsequent charges.
Bridges, who was the computer forensics expert on the case, allegedly stole $820,000 through a series of wire transfers used to move Bitcoin that had been stolen from Silk Road back in 2013 and deposited in the Japanese Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox — an exchange which filed bankruptcy after nearly $500 million worth of the cryptocurrency mysteriously disappeared. A couple of days later, he signed the government’s warrant to seize millions of dollars worth of bitcoins from Mt. Gox accounts.
The complaint indicates that after the former Secret Service agent learned of the FBI’s investigation into suspicious activity regarding the Silk Road investigation, he then transferred a total of $250,000 from his personal account to one he shared with someone else.
Bridges has been charged in federal court with wire fraud and money laundering.
Force on the other hand, who allegedly setup fake online personas which he used to extort money from Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht, was assigned to investigate the Silk Road marketplace and was charged with wire fraud, money laundering, conflict of interest and theft of government property.
Prosecutors allege that Force used his position as an executive at a digital currency exchange called CoinMKT, an exchange in which he was an investor, to illegally seize the accounts of customers. He allegedly transferred $297,000 in illegally-seized digital currency to his personal accounts.
He’s also alleged to have successfully extorted $100,000 worth of Bitcoin from Ulbricht which he then deposited in his personal account. Later, he used a series of Bitcoin and personal U.S. dollar transactions which included a $235,000 wire transfer to an account in Panama to launder the stolen money.
The murder-for-hire aspect of the criminal complaint against Silk Road founder Ulbricht remains pending, however, he was found guilty on the separate drug-related charges for which he is currently awaiting sentencing.
What are your thoughts on the alleged criminal activity of these two former federal agents who were involved in the Silk Road investigation?