In April of 2015, just seven weeks after Ross’s trial concluded, it was revealed that two federal agents at the core of the Silk Road investigation—DEA agent Carl Force and Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges—were charged with corruption directly related to their involvement in Silk Road.
It was later disclosed that Bridges was working for the NSA during this time, and that he and Force alerted DPR to the government’s investigation of him, allowing him to set Ross up and slip away.
Theft and extortion
The agents also went after the bitcoins on Silk Road. According to Force, they tricked Curtis Green, a senior Silk Road admin, into accepting a controlled delivery of cocaine. When Green gave them his address, the agents arrested him. During his interrogation, Green revealed how to exploit Silk Road’s system, change passwords and take over accounts. Bridges then used Green’s account to hijack and empty the accounts of top Silk Road vendors.
According to Force, DPR was duped into believing that Green was behind the theft. DPR supposedly asked Force, who was posing as a cartel member, to track Green down and get the money back. Force agreed and pretended to catch and kill Green. No bitcoins were recovered.
The government claimed the agents extorted DPR on other occasions as well, using threats of exposure and death. In one instance, they said Force and Bridges used the alias “DeathFromAbove” to send a message to DPR to warn him they would expose his identity if he didn’t pay them.
Bridges’s specialty was in “computer forensics and anonymity software derived from Tor.” He was “the Task Force’s subject matter expert in Bitcoin.” So, Force was “assisted in his illegal, unauthorized infiltration and manipulation of the Silk Road website by a computer forensics agent with expertise in anonymity and Bitcoin.” – Dratel arguing for a new trial.
However, the “full nature of Force and Bridges’s misconduct has yet to be disclosed, as the government quickly reached plea agreements with both, resolving their cases without any additional disclosure to the public.” As they admitted at Bridges’s sentencing, “there are a lot of unanswered questions.”
The “prosecution of Force shed light on his “capacity for fraud, deception, forgery, abuse of his government authority and access–including predatory and retaliatory conduct and false accusations against innocent persons– and inventing complex, layered cover stories to conceal his misdeeds.” – Dratel arguing for a new trial once Force and Bridges’s corruption was revealed.
Trying to flee
Even after their corruption was exposed, the agents did not stop. At one point, Bridges attempted to have a Secret Service colleague lie to his grand jury. He also married another witness, so she could invoke spousal immunity and not be forced to testify. When he didn’t beat the grand jury, he tried to flee and was arrested in his home with “passport…documents pertaining to offshore companies based in Belize, Mauritius, and Nevis, and a bulletproof vest.”
“Since people almost never flee without some access to money overseas, Bridges’s plans, and the foreign corporations, begs the question whether we know the full range of his and Force’s illegal activity in connection with the Silk Road site. The government has clearly been more interested in suppressing such disclosure than getting to the bottom of it.” — Joshua Dratel, Ross’s defense attorney
To this day, it is unknown to what extent Force and Bridges compromised the Silk Road website and the evidence used against Ross. During a closed pre-trial hearing, Turner lied to Ross’s judge about what they were capable of, but we now know that they had virtually unfettered access to the site.
With Green’s “administrator” privileges, Force and Bridges “could have reset the PIN on DPR’s account and usurped control of it,” even “without DPR losing access.” They could have “changed anything in the Silk Road database, including message text in the Forum or Market,” all without “the government’s knowledge of what they did.” – Dratel arguing for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence.
- ▲ – Force/Bridges criminal complaint
- ▲ – Shaun Bridges sentencing script (page 19)
- ▲ – Reply Memorandum of Law in support of Ross’s post-trial motions (page 55)
- ▲ – Force/Bridges criminal complaint (page 5)
- ▲ – Force/Bridges criminal complaint (page 42)
- ▲ – Reply Memorandum of Law in support of Ross’s post-trial motions (page 57)
- ▲ – Carl Mark Force plea agreement (page 5)
- ▲ – Carl Mark Force plea agreement
- ▲ – Shaun Bridges sentencing script
- ▲ – Appeal brief (page 34)
- ▲ – Appeal brief (page 18)
- ▲ – Appeal brief (page 23)
- ▲ – Shaun Bridges sentencing script (page 14)
- ▲ – Appeal brief (page 35)
- ▲ – Shaun Bridges sentencing script (page 11)
- ▲ – Shaun Bridges sentencing script (page 23)
- ▲ – U.S.’s motion to terminate Shaun Bridges’s motion for self-surrender and motion to unseal arrest warrant and [proposed] order (page 2)
- ▲ – NakedSecurity article – Oct 21, 2015 (“Corrupt ex-DEA agent Carl Force gets 6 years for extorting Silk Road”)
- ▲ – ArsTechnica article, Dec 7, 2015 (“Judge sets 71-month sentence for former Secret Service agent who plundered Silk Road”)
- ▲ – Reuters article – Nov 7, 2017 (“Ex-agent in Silk Road probe gets more prison time for bitcoin theft”)
- ▲ – Reply Memorandum of Law in support of Ross’s post-trial motions (page 3)
- ▲ – Reply Memorandum of Law in support of Ross’s post-trial motions (page 36)