Two former federal agents, who helped to conduct the investigation of Silk Road, have been accused of stealing bitcoin from criminals related to the online marketplace.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, the agents were charged with money laundering, wire fraud and other offenses. The criminal complaint was filed in the federal court of San Francisco on March 25.
Shaun Bridges, 32, and Carl Force, 46, were selected to join the Baltimore task force, which investigated the Silk Road.
Force was a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration and communicated with Ross Ulbricht, known as “Dread Pirate Roberts.” He was accused of money laundering, wire fraud, conflict of interest and stealing the government property.
Bridges was a special agent with the U.S. Secret Service and served as the computer forensics expert in the investigation. He was also charged with money laundering and wire fraud.
Silk Road was an online black bazaar, which allowed its users to buy and sell illicit items, such as drugs and guns, in exchange for the digital currency. Following the closure of the website in 2013, its 30-year-old creator Ross Ulbricht was found guilty of charges, including trafficking and money laundering. As of October 2013, the Silk Road brought revenues of about $200 million.
According to the complaint, Force has taken $250,000 from Ulbricht and even offered him $100,000 in exchange of the information on the investigation.
The prosecutors also alleged that Force seized the accounts belonged to the users of CoinMKT exchange, where the agent served as an executive. The complaint says that he stole $297,000 in virtual currency and transferred money to his own accounts.
Meantime, Bridges has allegedly taken more than $800,000 in bitcoins during the investigation and deposited the funds in the Japan-based Mt.Gox exchange. Later he signed the government’s warrant to take millions of dollars in cryptocurrency from the exchange’s accounts. After the FBI started investigating the Silk Road, Bridges moved $250,000 from his account to another one, which he shared with someone else.
Force, who was arrested on Friday, appeared in court on Monday, while Bridges was released after attending the court in San Francisco. Until proven guilty, the agents are presumed innocent.
“It is clear from this complaint that fundamentally the government’s investigation of Mr. Ulbricht lacked any integrity, and was wholly and fatally compromised from the inside,” Joshua Dratel, Ulbricht’s lawyer, told Reuters.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the IRS-CI’s San Francisco Division, the FBI’s San Francisco Division, the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General in Washington D.C. and the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General.
The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network also participated in the investigation.