Two law enforcement officers who were part of the Silk Road investigation are now being charged by the Department of Justice for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars of bitcoin (at time of writing) from Silk Road as well as generally abusing their position to lie, cheat, and steal. The ludicrously named DEA Special Agent Carl Mark Force IV and Secret Service Agent Shaun Bridges were part of a parallel investigation into Ross Ulbricht, administrator of the now shuttered Silk Road deep web black market.
This doesn’t mean that Ross Ulbricht, who was convicted, is in the clear. The trial here in New York was for drug charges related to Silk Road, by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (USAO-SDNY). These agents part of USAO-Baltimore, and their investigation was against Ulbricht on murder-for-hire charges in Maryland. The charges against the agents themselves are part of an investigation with the Department of Justice and USAO-San Francisco. Early on in the New York trial, there was a hint of discontentment between the NY and Baltimore teams.
In November 2014, the government informed Ulbricht’s defense team “in an abundance of caution” of the ongoing federal grand jury investigation against the corrupt agents. The government was granted a protective order so the defense would not disclose details to any third-party, including the jury.
Ulbricht’s lawyers are being good lawyers, claiming the whole case is corrupted, and moving for an appeal. “It is clear from this Complaint that fundamentally the government’s investigation of Mr. Ulbricht lacked any integrity, and was wholly and fatally compromised from the inside,” said Ulbricht’s attorney in a statement.
That is their job, and this is a staggeringly strange case that certainly requires a second look. But Ulbricht nearly convicted himself with repeated mistakes and arrogance, by keeping a god damn crime diary, where he outlined every single thing that happened, on the off-chance he could get a book deal. It will be unlikely that the defense will succeed here in NY.
What’s more interesting will be the state of the USAO-Baltimore’s case against Ulbricht. It was their investigation that was badly compromised. The details are astonishing including a shell company named after an evil organization from the James Bond movies; Carl Mark Force IV’s name; a side job in another bitcoin company; forged documents against Venmo; an attempt to extort Mark Karpeles of now defunct Mt Gox; and a retaliatory attack on him when Mr. Karpeles refused.
The Silk Road trial and bitcoin keep on giving.