A former federal agent who lined his pockets with bitcoins extorted from the black market site Silk Road has been sentenced to 78 months – more than 6 years – in prison.
Former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Carl Force agreed, in June, to plead guilty to squeezing what was then valued at around $50,000 worth of Bitcoin (about £32,000) from Silk Road’s creator, Ross “Dread Pirate Roberts” Ulbricht.
Force had posed as a drug dealer and convinced Ulbricht that he had information on a DEA investigation into the site.
Also in June, Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Force was one of legions of undercover agents that infiltrated Silk Road’s user base. In its report on Ulbricht’s sentencing, the FBI cited “more than 60 individual undercover purchases of controlled substances”.
A couple of those agents were bad apples.
Instead of reporting the payment to the DEA, Force funneled the digital currency into his own personal accounts.
In late August, Secret Service agent and computer expert Shaun Bridges also pled guilty to charges of obstruction of justice and money laundering for using a Silk Road administrator account to steal around 20,000 bitcoins from various dealers.
At the time, that sum was valued at around $820,000 (about £530,000).
Bridges and Force worked together on the Silk Road investigation.
According to the criminal complaint, Force went under the user name “French Maid” to offer Ulbricht information for $98,000 (about £63,400) in bitcoin that he deposited into his own, personal accounts.
While prosecutors had pushed to sentence Force to 87 months in prison, his defence asked for a shorter sentence – 48 months – due to mental health issues and a family history of alcoholism and abuse.
Force apologized in court on Monday for a betrayal that the presiding judge called “breathtaking.”
US District Judge Richard Seeborg had this to say:
The extent and the scope of Mr. Force's betrayal of public trust is quite simply breathtaking. It is compounded by the fact that it appears to have been motivated by greed and thrill seeking, including the pursuit of a book and movie deal.
Force told the court:
I'm sorry. I lost it and I don't understand a lot of it.
Bridges is due to be sentenced in December, and Force has been barred from communicating with his former colleague.