Carl Mark Force IV, the fourth in his family to carry that amazing name, has pleaded guilty to stealing hundreds of thousands in bitcoin, as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. This follows last week’s guilty plea by his accomplice, former Secret Service special agent Shaun Bridges.
During the bizarre coda of the Silk Road trial it came to light that agents working as part of a separate investigation in Baltimore were secretly stealing bitcoins from Silk Road. Without the knowledge of his superiors, Force went on a bitcoin crime spree.
Force used information gained from the investigation of a Silk Road moderator to log into Silk Road and steal funds to transfer to their own accounts. Using pseudonyms like “French Maid,” he extorted darknet drug market administrator Ross Ulbricht for tens of thousands of bitcoins. Ulbricht was ultimately sentenced to life without parole by a parallel New York-based investigation.
On LinkedIn, he attempted to start a work relationship with then current CEO of the bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, Mark Karpeles. When Karpeles spurned Force, Bridges provided evidence that resulted in Mt. Gox. accounts being seized. Force then sent a mocking email to Karpeles, “told you should have partnered with me!” with a smiley face as the subject.
Force also became a compliance officer for bitcoin trading platform CoinMKT, using his position to run improper background checks with government intelligence. He then illegally seized nearly a quarter million in funds from an “R.P.”
When payment startup Venmo and bitcoin exchange Bitstamp froze Force’s accounts for suspicious activity, he attempted to intimidate them with his DEA credentials. Bitstamp found his use of an anonymous web browser –which used Tor’s deep web — suspicious, and Force responded with: “Don’t particularly want NSA looking over my shoulder :)” Bitstamp blocked his account again and reported the incident to law enforcement.
Soon San Francisco-based prosecutors began asking questions and Force asked Bitstamp to delete their records. It’s unknown if Bitstamp complied. Ultimately, San Francisco investigators busted Force and Bridges.