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.
Agent Carl Mark Force IV was part of the Baltimore-based task force which investigated Silk Road, the online darknet market. As a member of the task force, Carl worked undercover under the alias (Nob) and developed a good working relationship with Ross Ulbricht, the Silk Road creator.
During this time, Carl Mark Force IV, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) agent solicited and received the digital currency as payments for his illegal “favors.” He used a fake online name to steal from both the government and the investigation’s targets. In addition, he had improper conduct and stole sensitive information about the Silk Road case and sold it to the site’s leader (Ross Ulbricht). He was separately charged with stealing government property.
Before his arrest, Force had attempted to invest the bitcoins he had attained in a bitcoin start-up. He wrote the company’s owner requesting to become his partner and take up a role as the company’s compliance officer. He claimed that he had accumulated the millions of dollars worth of bitcoins when they were still cheap and wanted to invest them before they became too popular. Force further stated that he intended to leave the DEA and focus on investing in digital currency. However, the company’s owner sensed that something about Force was not quite right and did not respond to his requests.
The U.S. Attorney’s office also confirmed that Carl had actually used other identities that hadn’t been DEA approved in the Silk Road investigations. One such identity was that of a “French Maid.”
In October 2013, the Silk Road servers were seized and thus giving the law enforcement complete access to all messages sent among the site’s users. One such conversation was between the site leader (Dread Pirate Roberts) and French Maid. At one point, Carl mark made a mistake and signed of as Carl. However, he was quick to correct his mistake and sent another message in an attempt to clarify that his name was Carla Sophia. According to the case, investigators also discovered that “French maid” and “Nob” used the same encrypted software that was also outdated.
One of the strongest clues that tied French Maid to Carl was the money trail. The Silk Road server-data revealed that on 15th September 2013, Dread Pirate Roberts paid French Maid seven hundred and seventy bitcoins which at the time was worth approximately ninety eight thousand dollars. Around the same time, Dread Pirate Roberts also recorded the payment in his journal.
Despite their efforts to hide the bitcoins destination by breaking them up into four (separate) bitcoin addresses, the investigators traced their movement through the block-chain analysis that all lead to Carl’s account. In addition, at least six hundred bitcoins from this account were transferred to another account at Bitstamp. This particular account was in fact owned by Carl Force and had been registered using his date of birth, home address, personal email address and personal bank account. More bitcoins of a high value were also funneled to Carl’s personal checking account thus connecting him directly to the payments made by Dread Pirate Roberts to French Maid.
In many occasions, Force tried to use his DEA position for his own gain. For instance, he invested one hundred and ten thousand dollars worth of bitcoins into CoinMKT. While still working as a DEA agent, he was the de facto Chief Compliance Officer for CoinMKT. He even features in the pitch desk at CoinMKT to venture investors for capital. Furthermore, he was listed as Coin-MKT’s compliance officer so as to benefit Coin-MKT. The conversations that he had with the staff at CoinMKT further implied that he intended to leave the DEA and work for the company.
Earlier this year, Carl Force was indicted for obstruction of justice, money laundering and extortion. He was also accused of stealing both information and money in form of bitcoins during the Silk Road investigations. In July, he pled guilty for the charges. According to the recent court documents, the defense sought leniency for Carl Force on the basis of his mental health problems at the time and work environment. The defense requested for the sentence to be four years.
However, Richard Seeborg, the US District Judge said that the betrayal of public trust by Force was breathtaking and was simply motivated by greed. He also stated that Force’s greed and thrill seeking nature lead him to go as far as pursuing a movie and book deal.
Although the US government requested for a seven year and three months sentencing, Carl Mark Force IV was sentenced to six years and six months in a federal prison.
Force was also ordered to pay three thousand dollars in restitution to Curtis Green who is a former employee of Silk Road. In addition, the court ordered that he pay three hundred and thirty seven thousand dollars to an undisclosed party identified as RP.
Shaun Bridges, another federal agent was also charged with obstruction of justice and money laundering. He also pleaded guilty for stealing over eight hundred thousand dollars in bitcoins. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for December.