Two former federal agents who worked on the 2013 bust of underground drug market Silk Road were charged with multiple felonies this week alleging that the pair used the operation for their own gain, blackmailing defendants and stealing more than $1.5 million worth of bitcoin under the cover of darknet.
The 2013 arrest and subsequent prosecution of Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht was considered a win for the government, which had been fighting an uphill battle against a proliferation of online drug sales conducted with impunity across encrypted, anonymous connections.
But just a month after Ulbricht's conviction, two agents connected with the case—DEA agent Carl Mark Force IV and Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges—were arrested in connection with their work on the investigation.
The 95-page criminal indictment against the agents was unsealed Monday, laying out an array of felony charges, including money laundering, wire fraud, theft of government property and conflict of interest.
For example, the government alleges, Force created several online personas during the investigation, which he used to anonymously contact Ulbricht offering to sell information about what the federal investigation. After "converting to his own personal use" close to $776,000 worth of Bitcoin, he clumsily faked a subpoena to try to trick Venmo into unfreezing his account, the complaint alleges.
Prosecutors say Bridges—a computer forensics expert—was a little more elegant, quietly diverting close to $800,000 worth of Bitcoin. According to the indictment, he moved the money off the Silk Road site and onto currency exchange site Mt Gox, where he was able to cash out and transfer the balance to a personal bank account via an LLC called Quantum International Investments.
The New York Times reports that both men resigned from government as soon as they learned they were under investigation, but it seems like Bridge—the Secret Service agent—got the better deal. Force was reportedly arrested this weekend in Baltimore, where he'll remain in custody until at least Thursday. Meanwhile, Bridges apparently got to turn himself in in San Francisco, where he was released on bond not long after.
[image via AP]