Two former federal agents have been charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bitcoin during the investigation of the Silk Road dark web marketplace.
Carl Force, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Shaun Bridges, a special agent with the US Secret Service (USSS), were both assigned to a Baltimore task force investigating the Silk Road, a dark web bazaar where shoppers bought and sold illegal goods with bitcoin.
The site was shut down by authorities in late 2013 and earlier this year its founder, Ross Ulbricht - who went by the online name Dread Pirate Roberts and is accused of making millions of dollars in bitcoin from his venture - was convicted on seven charges.
According to authorities, Bridges gained control over some $800,000 in bitcoin during the investigation and moved it to Mt. Gox, the Japan-based exchange that famously went bust last year. He is then accused of wiring the funds into his personal investment account back in the States, just two days before seeking a $2.1 million seizure warrant for Mt. Gox accounts.
As an undercover agent, Force was tasked with opening up online communications with Ulbricht but he also "developed additional online personas and engaged in a broad range of illegal activities calculated to bring him personal financial gain".
According to the complaint, Force used fake online personas and "complex bitcoin transactions" to steal from both the government and the target of the investigation. He is even accused of selling information about the investigation.
Force also invested in and worked for a digital currency exchange company while still working for the DEA, directing it to freeze a customer’s account with no legal basis to do so, before transferring the victim’s funds to his personal account.
Force is charged with wire fraud, theft of government property, money laundering and conflict of interest. Bridges is charged with wire fraud and money laundering.