Federal Agents Charged With Cyber Theft

The U.S. Dept. of Justice has charged a former special agent at the Drug Enforcement Administration and a former special agent at the U.S. Secret Service with stealing digital currency during a federal investigation into the Silk Road web marketplace, an underground black market that let users conduct criminal transactions over the Internet.

According to the Department of Justice, Carl Force, 46, of Baltimore, MD., a former special agent at the DEA, and, both invested in and worked for a digital currency exchange while working for the DEA. Shaun Bridges, 32, of Laurel, Md., a former special agent at the Secret Service, deposited an estimated $800,000 of seized digital currency in a Japan-based exchange.  The two were charged with wire fraud, money laundering and other related offenses for stealing digital currency during their investigation of Silk Road.  The charges were contained in a federal criminal complaint filed on March 25, 2015, in the Northern District of California. The two former agents could not be reached for comment.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California, the FBI and the IRS criminal investigation unit in San Francisco, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office conducted the investigation.

Specifically, the two former agents were assigned to the Baltimore Silk Road Task Force, which investigated illegal activity in the Silk Road marketplace, according to the Dept. of Justice. Force worked undercover to build communications with a target of the investigation. The federal government’s complaint alleges that Force, developed “fake” online personas to engage “in a broad range of illegal activities calculated to bring him personal financial gain” from Bitcoin transactions “to steal from the government and the targets of the investigation.”

Specifically, the complaint says, “Force allegedly solicited and received digital currency as part of the investigation, but failed to report his receipt of the funds, and instead transferred the currency to his personal account.” Furthermore, the complaint alleges that Force “sold information about the government’s investigation to the target of the investigation.” And it the complaint “alleges that 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,” among other things.

The complaint also alleges that Bridges “diverted to his personal account over $800,000 in digital currency that he gained control of during the Silk Road investigation.” It says he then “placed the assets into an account at Mt. Gox, the now-defunct digital currency exchange in Japan,” and “wired funds into one of his personal investment accounts in the U.S. mere days before he sought a $2.1 million seizure warrant for Mt. Gox’s accounts.”

Bridges self-surrendered, while Force was arrested on Friday, March 27, 2015, in Baltimore.