A new twist has emerged from the famous case involving the seizure and shut down of Silk Road as two federal agents have been arrested for allegedly stealing Bitcoins while taking down the site.
The first, US Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges, is being charged with allegedly diverting $800,000 worth of Bitcoins from Silk Road to personal accounts during the investigation. While the previous charge is certainly a serious offense, the claims against DEA agent Carl Mark Force IV are much worse. Force is being charged with theft of government property (for sending digital funds to his personal accounts) and a conflict of interest as he was allegedly “solicited” by the site and received digital currencies via “fake online personas” while undercover during the investigation.
Despite the above sounding like something out of an action flick, the story actually took another wild twist as more details emerged. The claims against DEA Agent Force are that in reality there was more than a solicitation from the site, but rather that he was a mole on behalf of Silk Road within the DEA. He was initially placed undercover as part of the investigation against the site, but thereafter adopted the online pseudonym “Nob” which he used to contact Ross Ulbricht, the site’s administrator, who was known as Dread Pirate Roberts online. Ulbricht even attempted to hire “Nob” to commit the murder of a former Silk Road employee Curtis Clark Green (which never took place) in order to silence him as a witness.
Considering he began the investigation undercover, Force made the DEA aware of his initial correspondence with Ulbricht and maintained that he was simply a fake informant for the latter. However, after some time their interactions started to use encryption and eventually not all of the messages sent between the two were saved. Where the story gets darker is when Force created additional online personas beyond and “engaged in a broad range of illegal activities calculated to bring him personal financial gain,” according to the Department of Justice.
Major Silk Road govt corruption scandal revelation today that we’ve had to sit on for four months and were not permitted to use at trial.
— Joshua Dratel (@JDratel) March 30, 2015
What’s most interesting about these charges is its impact on Ulbricht’s trial and how it could alter the result. The above tweet is from Ulbricht’s lawyer, and it is very possible that this “govt corruption scandal” will taint the investigation. Ulbricht is currently on trial in the state of Maryland for the murder-for-hire attempts as mentioned above, but for two federal agents to be so negatively involved in an investigation is certainly not going to help the government’s cause against him. We’ll have to wait and see whether Force and Bridges are added to the list of criminals on trial for their involvement in Silk Road or whether the case against Ulbricht will remain on course.
Read the full criminal charges below: