Two former federal agents who investigated the Silk Road, the infamous online drug marketplace seized by the FBI in 2013, have been charged for their own outrageous digital crimes, including stealing money they acquired on their druggie undercover assignment.
Former DEA officer Carl Mark Force IV and former Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges, both part of a Baltimore-based task force devoted to taking down the Silk Road, are accused of wire fraud and money laundering. Force is also accused of theft of government property.
Force was actually the lead agent tasked with establishing communication with the Dread Pirate Roberts, but the complaint against him alleges that he did a lot more than that, according to a Justice Department memo stating he "developed additional online personas and engaged in a broad range of illegal activities." The complaint says he stole from the government and third parties.
Possibly the most messed up charge against Force involves the undercover officer secretly screwed with the investigation to make money. The complaint says Force tried to extort Dread Pirate Roberts by saying he'd give the government information unless DPR paid $250,000. The complaint also says that Force created a persona called "French Maid" and convinced DPR to pay "French Maid" $100,000 for information on the government's investigation.
Meanwhile, Bridges used his knowledge of Mt. Gox, the Bitcoin exchange he was also investigating, to divert $820,000 of the money he used undercover into secret personal accounts on the now-defunct exchange. Bridges self-surrendered today.
So during the investigation that led to the arrest and controversial trial of Ross Ulbricht, who was convicted on drug kingpin charges for running the site, federal agents were siphoning off Bitcoin they obtained while sneaking around the drug site undercover. Maybe they didn't realize that Bitcoin isn't really anonymous?
This looks like VERY good news for Ulbricht, since it makes the Silk Road investigation look enormously sketchy. Two officers full-on breaking bad on the job isn't exactly a stellar sign that the case was conducted above-board. And government agency sketchiness is exactly why Ulbricht's defense lawyer Joshua Dratel filed for a retrial: Dratchel said the government didn't provide exculpatory evidence in time, and that it conducted warrantless surveillance.
Dratel's accusations remain unproven, but now it's clear there was some fraudulent behavior going down on the government's side.
You can read the full affidavit against Force and Bridges here: