Federal Agents Up on Criminal Charges
March 30, 2015, Gephardt Daily: Two former federal agents have been charged with wire fraud, money laundering and related offenses for stealing digital currency during their investigation of the Silk Road, an covert black market that allowed clients to conduct illegal transactions over the Internet.
The charges are contained in a federal criminal complaint issued on March 25, 2015, in the Northern District of California and unsealed today.
Carl M. Force, 46, of Baltimore, was a Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Shaun W. Bridges, 32, of Laurel, Maryland, was a Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service. Both were assigned to the Baltimore Silk Road Task Force, which probed alleged illegal activity in the Silk Road marketplace.
Force served as an undercover agent and is charged with wire fraud, theft of government property, money laundering and conflict of interest. Bridges is charged with wire fraud and money laundering.
According to the complaint, Force was a DEA agent assigned to investigate the Silk Road marketplace. During the investigation, Force was authorized to communicate online with certain Silk Road clients.
However, the allegations are that Force, without authority, developed additional online identities and engaged in a broad range of illegal activities calculated to bring him personal financial gain.
The complaint also alleges, Force used these counterfeit online personas, and engaged in complex Bitcoin transactions to steal from the government and the targets of the investigation. Specifically, Force is said to have sought out and garnered digital currency as part of the investigation, but failed to report the funds properly. He allegedly transferred the currency into his personal account.
In one such transaction, Force purportedly sold information about the government’s investigation to the target of the investigation. Additionally, the complaint also alleges Force invested in and worked for a digital currency exchange company while still working for the DEA, and that he directed the company to freeze a customer’s account with no legal basis to do so, then transferred the customer’s funds to his personal account.
Further, Force allegedly sent an unauthorized Justice Department subpoena to an online payment service directing that it unfreeze his personal account.
Bridges purportedly diverted over $800,000 to his personal account in digital currency he gained control of during the Silk Road investigation. The complaint also alleges Bridges placed the assets into an account at a now-defunct digital currency exchange in Japan. He then allegedly wired funds into one of his personal investment accounts.
Bridges surrendered himself and will appear before Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James of the Northern District of California. Force was arrested on Friday, March 27, and will appear before Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Sullivan of the District of Maryland.
The charges contained in the complaint are accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.