The Silk Road bust was one of the biggest crime busts of all time. The infamous dark web site, which ran using bitcoin for its payment, was helping to facilitate criminal activity around the world, allowing people to find drugs and even put hits out on their enemies. Turns out, law enforcement efforts to bring down the Silk Road were riddled with crime too.
This past March two federal agents allegedly stole thousands of the bitcoins that were seized during the Silk Road raid. Shaun Bridges of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Carl Force of the U.S. Secret Service have been accused of wire fraud, money laundering, and other crimes.
Now, at least one of the agents is fessing up to his crimes, having come to a plea deal with prosecutors. Mr. Bridges was part of a Baltimore task force that helped compile evidence showing that Ross Ulbricht had hired assassins to murder those who threatened his Silk Road website.
According to a filing in San Francisco, Bridges admitted both to stealing the bitcoins, and also money laundering and the obstruction of justice. Given the seriousness of these charges, Bridges appears to be facing a lengthy prison sentence.
Bridges was able to secure passwords for Silk Road users, apparently through the website’s customer service representative, and then used the passwords to access users accounts. Once the accounts were accessed, Bridges transferred the bitcoins to himself and then used Mt. Gox to convert the coins into dollars, before finally moving the money into a bank account under a company he owned.
It is believed that Mr. Bridges stole $820,000 dollars worth of bitcoins, though the exact value and number of coins is hard to determine due to fluctuating prices.
Bridges was the computer forensic expert of the Baltimore task force, where the other accused agent, Carl Force, also worked.
Carl Force has not yet plead guilty, and isn’t due in court until August. With Bridges having confessed, Force may be compelled to reach a plea agreement of his own.
Apparently, Force had actually tried to extort money from the Dread Pirate Roberts (Ross Ulbricht) himself, threatening to turn Ulbricht into the police, even as he himself was a federal law enforcement agent.
In a dose of irony, the government is pursuing extortion charges against Forces for trying to extort money out of the Dread Pirate Roberts.
Force also asked Ulbricht how to convert bitcoins into dollars, apparently at the request of Bridges.
Between January of 2011 and October of 2013, it is estimated that the Silk Road facilitated about $215 million dollars worth of drug deals and other illicit activities.
This past November, the United States federal government seized the so-called Silk Road 2.0 and its alleged founder, Blake Benthall, 26, who lived in San Francisco. It is believed that Silk Road 2 was facilitating up to $8 million dollars in trade per month.
The government was apparently infiltrated the second Silk Road’s staff, and was also able to gain access to the server information for the website, allowing them to track down Benthall’s information.