- The Washington Times - Monday, March 30, 2015

Two former federal agents were charged Monday in federal court of stealing digital currency, known as bitcoins, during a probe of an online black market that allowed users to conduct illegal transactions.

Carl Force, 46, a former special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, and former U.S. Secret Service special agent Shaun Bridges, 32, were charged with wire fraud, money laundering and other crimes related to stealing digital currency from Silk Road, an underground organization founded by Ross Ulbricht, who was known among agents as “Dread Pirate Roberts.”

Both men were assigned to a task force in Baltimore that was asked to investigate illegal activity in the Silk Road marketplace, which centered around “drugs of nearly every variety,” according to court documents. At the same time, federal agents were working on a separate investigation into the marketplace in New York City, the documents show.

The charges are contained in a federal criminal complaint issued Wednesday in the Northern District of California and unsealed Monday, according to an FBI statement.

In 2012 and 2013, Mr. Force was the lead undercover agent tasked with establishing communications with Mr. Ulbright, the complaint states. He faces charges of wire fraud, theft of government property, money laundering and conflict of interest stemming from his decision to develop various online personas, without permission from his superiors, and engage in “illegal activities calculated to bring him personal financial gain,” according to the statement.

Mr. Force used those online personas to engage in complex bitcoin transactions that stole funds from both the government and the targets of the investigation, the statement shows.

During that time frame, Mr. Bridges committed wire fraud and money laundering, according to court documents. Mr. Bridges was the computer forensics expert on the Baltimore investigation until earlier this month, when he abruptly resigned upon learning he was the subject of a federal investigation, the documents show.

The Silk Road website was created in early 2011 and operated until October 2013, when law enforcement officers seized the operation.

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