ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.
A former special agent officer working with the Secret Service has been sentenced to 71 months imprisonment by a California court. Shaun Bridges, 33, was found guilty of money laundering and obstructing justice when conducting the Silk Road investigations. Presiding U.S District Magistrate Richard Seeborg also ordered him to pay a fine of $651,000 for his crimes.
This announcement was made by Assistant AG of the Criminal Division Justice Department, Leslie R. Caldwell, together with other key government officials. During his active days, Bridges was part of a police unit charged with performing investigations in Baltimore area. Earlier on, another suspect working on the same case also got arrested and is currently serving time in prison.
Together with Shaun, they spearheaded an FBI-led taskforce following the digital blueprint left behind by Silk Road founder, Ross Ulbricht, who was earlier on sentenced to life imprisonment in May. During investigations between 2012 and 2014, feds made an arrest on customer support staff Curtis Green, whom they planned to use as an asset in their inquiries. However, it later on emerged that Bridges reset the suspect’s account information and transferred 20,000 bitcoins to another personal account. These units had an estimated value of $350,000. While this move is criminal by itself, it also served to make Ulbricht suspicious hence prompting a revocation of Green’s Silk Road administrator pass and hindering investigations.
The accused had a personal responsibility of conducting forensic digital investigations so as to locate, identify and arraign targets including Dread Pirate Roberts himself who ran the business from his base in California Northern District. While giving his guilty plea, he admitted to hijacking account information obtained during a search on Mr. Green. Resetting passwords and pin details on various accounts and moving the said amount of bitcoins to a personal wallet. It also emerged that the Silk Road founder attempted to kill his customer support staff in retaliation, after discovering that bitcoins had indeed been lost.
Bridges said that he moved the stolen sums into a foreign account belonging to Mt. Gox, a virtual currency exchange firm based in Japan. This transaction was apparently made between the months of March and May 2015, he liquidated the coins into $820,000 U.S. currency before transferring the funds to a private investment account in America. He shared this account with another undisclosed person.
Apart from misappropriating seized currency, the accused also admitted to making multiple false and ambiguous statements to investigators and prosecutors alike in connection to the grand jury investigations.
Bridges is now the second federal cop to be sentenced in light of conducting shady deals on the Silk Road. Prior to him, Carl M. Force, 46 a special agent also working on the same case but under Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was sentenced earlier this year.
During trial, Shaun’s lawyers had sought a maximum 3-yr. prison sentence but Judge Richard Seeborg mentioned that Bridges’ behavior was shocking and reprehensible; further stating that the accused openly abandoned his public duty, instead choosing to collude with the criminals themselves. Before issuing his nearly 6-yr. jail term verdict, the magistrate lamented that this was an extremely serious breach of public trust and professional obligation. And from evidence given such actions were only motivated by greed.
Seeborg further said that it was “inexcusable” for a practicing cop to intentionally put a cooperating Silk Road witness at risk, through blackmail and intimidation. Bridges had earlier accepted his charges of obstruction and money laundering in August; he was only awaiting sentencing that was recently given to him by the magistrate.
A tearful Shaun told the courtroom before incarceration that he’d accepted responsibility for all crimes committed, but had not used even a single coin of the stolen money which can still be retrieved by officials. He said a lot has been lost in his life in terms of an illustrious career, something that will never be recovered anytime soon due to the prison term.
Even after pleading guilty, his case is still undergoing more investigations to unearth findings that can prove helpful in fighting future cybercrime. This task is being carried out by San Francisco’s FBI Division, in conjunction with officials from Homeland Security and Department of Justice. Meanwhile, U.S Assistant Attorney of the Northern District of California, Arvon Perteet, is handling asset forfeiture matters.