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Rogue Silk Road Fed starts 6.5-year stretch for nicking Bitcoins

Carl Force pocketed cash from drug souk boss Ross Ulbricht

By John Leyden, 20 Oct 2015

A rogue US federal agent was jailed for 78 months on Monday after he stole Bitcoins during an investigation into the notorious Silk Road online black market.

Carl Force, 46, of Baltimore, Maryland, a former US Drug Enforcement Administration agent, was supposed to act as a mole, selling bogus information on the investigation of Silk Road to the drug souk's boss.

But rather than give the money he made from selling this insider info to the US government, Force pocketed it for himself – all $50,000 of it.

In June this year, Force pleaded guilty to offenses of extortion, money laundering, and obstruction of justice. This week he appeared in a California district court for sentencing before Judge Richard Seeborg, who described the extent of his betrayal of trust as "breathtaking."

Defense lawyers cited Force's mental health problems and alcoholism as grounds for partial mitigation during the sentencing hearing in San Francisco, Reuters reports. The prosecution had asked the judge [PDF] to send Force down for at least seven years.

Silk Road ran for more than two years, generating more than $214m in sales of drugs and other illicit goods before its closure in October 2013. Trades were conducted in Bitcoin. Ross Ulbricht, Silk Road's founder, was jailed for life in May this year following his conviction for masterminding the marketplace under the "Dread Pirate Roberts" alias. He was found guilty of drug distribution via the internet, among other offenses.

Shaun Bridges, 32, of Laurel, Maryland, a former Secret Service agent who was charged alongside Force back in March with stealing Bitcoins, made a deal with prosecutors in August. Bridges is due to be sentenced in December.

Force and Bridges were both members of a federal task force that investigated Silk Road. Force made contact with Ulbricht while posing as a drug dealer named "Nob." Acting as Nob, Force talked Ulbricht into paying him $50,000 in Bitcoins in August 2013 while pretending to offer inside information on the Silk Road investigation in exchange.

The rogue agent reported the conversations to his bosses, but falsely claimed no payment had been made by Ulbricht. Force used another invented street name, "French Maid," a month later to obtain Bitcoins for "Silk Road counter intel," this time asking Ulbricht for around $98,000 in digital currency.

In addition to his crimes involving Silk Road, Force scammed a customer of CoinMKT, a Bitcoin-related outfit the g-man was working for as a second job. He swiped $370,000 from a CoinMKT customer, placing $37,000 in a government account, and kept the rest for himself. Force was ordered to pay $337,000 in restitution to his victim. ®

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