Former DEA agent Carl Force has reportedly agreed to plead guilty to extortion, money laundering and obstruction of justice charges, according to court documents filed earlier this week. Force, along with former Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges, was accused of bitcoin theft while investigating the Silk Road online marketplace.
Force was a DEA agent assigned to a Baltimore task force investigating Silk Road. During the assignment, Force allegedly adopted multiple online personas and used them to extort “Dread Pirate Roberts”, Silk Road’s creator.
Using the online alias “Nob”, Force allegedly convinced DPR to pay him $50,000 in bitcoin in exchange for information related to the investigation. Prosecutors said that Force claimed there was no such payment while funneling the money to his own account. Force reportedly accepted two payments as “Nob” totaling about $90,000 in bitcoin.
“Nob” was also the reported recipient of $80,000 paid by DPR to kill Curtis Clark Green, a Silk Road staffer whom DPR believed had stolen over $800,000 in bitcoin. While DPR believed it was Green who was behind the theft, Green’s account had actually been taken over by Bridges unbeknownst to DPR, and Bridges was the alleged thief.
Using another online alias, “French Maid”, Force allegedly extorted another $100,000 worth of bitcoin from DPR in exchange for information.
Force allegedly also used a third online alias, “Death From Above”, to attempt to extort $250,000 from DPR by telling him that he knew his identity. The attempt was unsuccessful.
In addition to extortion, Force is accused of freezing a customer account holding $297,000 in bitcoins in a digital currency exchange company, CoinMKT, while he was investigating Silk Road. Those funds reportedly ended up in an account belonging to Force.
A jury found that Ross Ulbricht was indeed DPR and he was found guilty of seven criminal charges related to the creation and operation of Silk Road, including drug dealing, computer hacking, and money laundering. Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison without parole, a punishment beyond what prosecutors had advocated. He has since appealed the life sentence.
Joshua Dratel, Ulbricht’s lawyer, has said that Ulbricht did not receive a fair trial due to the fact that the allegations regarding Force and Bridges were kept secret from the defense until just before the trial. “At Mr. Ulbricht’s trial, knowing full well the corruption alleged in the complaint made public today, the government still aggressively precluded much of that evidence, and kept it from the jury,” Dratel said. “Consequently, the government improperly used the ongoing grand jury process in San Francisco as both a sword and a shield to deny Mr. Ulbricht access to and use of important evidence, and a fair trial.”