Ross Ulbricht, the convicted mastermind behind Silk Road, the world’s largest online narcotics emporium, won’t be the only person nabbed because of his or her involvement with the site.
Former US Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges will plead guilty to charges connected to the case, including money-laundering and obstruction charges.
Bridges had been part of the Baltimore Silk Road task force — known as SA Force — a task force charged with tracking down Ulbricht, who went by the handle “DreadPirateRoberts.”
On the team with Bridges was DEA agent Carl Mark Force IV, who is also facing criminal charges. Force is charged with extorting Ulbricht, as well as wire fraud, theft of government property, money laundering, and conflict of interest.
Over the course of the investigation, Bridges diverted more than $US800,000 in bitcoins acquired during the investigation to a personal account.
Bridges is expected to formally plead guilty later this year to the money laundering and obstruction charges.. It is unknown what type of sentencing Bridges will receive.
“Mr. Bridges accepts complete responsibility,” his lawyer Steve Levin told the AP on Thursday. “He’s regretted his action from the start.”
Bridges resigned from his post at the Secret Service on March 18th, after learning he was a subject of the investigation.
He later surrendered to authorities in San Francisco in March and was released on bail several days later.
The story behind how Force and Bridges became involved in their illegal activities is almost as strange as that of Ulbricht.
While undercover on Silk Road as “Nob,” “French Maid,” and later “Death from Above,” Force allegedly sold information to Ulbricht, illegally, about the government’s investigation and siphoned the payments into his personal account.
Force allegedly extorted enough money to pay off his mortgage, repay a $US22,000 government loan, wire $US235,000 to an offshore account in Panama, and invest tens of thousands of dollars in real estate and stocks, according to Forbes’ Sarah Jeong.
In January 2013, $US820,000 worth of bitcoins were stolen from Silk Road — a theft that Ulbricht traced back to the account of Silk Road employee Curtis Green, according to Forbes. DPR allegedly hired Nob, thinking he was a hitman, to kill Green for stealing Silk Road funds.
Force and Bridges let DPR believe it was Green who had stolen the bitcoins, according to Forbes. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to DPR, Green had actually forfeited his administrative account to Bridges hours before the theft occurred, according to Forbes.
Nevertheless, Bridges allegedly staged Green’s “murder” with Force’s help, sending “proof-of-death” photos to DPR which were later used against Ulbricht.
By late January, Bridges had transferred all of the stolen bitcoins into the now-defunct bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, according to the Justice Department. By the end of May, the criminal complaint alleges, $US820,000 had been wired from Bridges’ Mt. Gox account to the bank account of Quantum International Investments, LLC, a dummy corporation he had set up in February to hide the stolen money.
In addition, Bridges “without authority, developed additional online personas and engaged in a broad range of illegal activities calculated to bring him personal financial gain,” according to the criminal complaint filed against Bridges and Force..
The criminal case against Force and Bridges will continue to proceed in the Northern District of California.
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