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Carl Mark Force IV, former DEA agent, has been ordered to return the stolen bitcoins by a U.S. district judge. A preliminary order to this effect has been signed by Judge Richard Seeborg, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, against Force who was a member of the task force team that investigated Silk Road, the infamous online drug black market founded by Ross Ulbricht. Force, who was arrested in the spring, pleaded guilty earlier this month to charges including money laundering, extortion and obstruction of justice. He would be sentenced in October this year.
The preliminary order signed by the judge mandates that Force must forfeit as much as 690 Bitcoins and other assets as listed below:
• $13,045 held by him in a BTC-e account in Bitcoins
• $109,741 held by him in a number of other private trading accounts
• $158,865 in lieu of his home in Baltimore
In addition, Seeborg approved a money judgment for $500,000 against Force.
Force and the Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges who investigated Silk Road between 2012 and 2014 were accused of selling information related to the investigation for financial gain. Subsequently, Force admitted that he sold information to Ross Ulbricht, the mastermind behind Silk Road, who was served with life imprisonment in May.
According to reports, Force, who had been a DEA agent for 15 years, offered to sell fake driving licenses and even devised plans to extort more money from the Silk Road founder by trading information under different identities. The former DEA agent also signed a movie deal worth $240,000 with 20th Century Fox without obtaining any approval from the department. The deal was for consultations on a film based on Silk Road story.
The announcement about the preliminary order against Force came in after the Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges, who was charged with stealing thousands of dollars in bitcoins during the investigation, and the federal prosecutors agreed on a plea deal.
In June, Bridges pleaded guilty to money laundering and obstruction of justice charges related to diverting more than $820,000 of bitcoins when investigating the Silk Road case. The theft led to Ulbricht hiring a hit on a fellow administrator at Silk Road who he thought was responsible for stealing the money. The former Secret Service agent will be sentenced in September.
Bridges and Force are not the first ones to be involved in corruption related to the War on Drugs. DEA agents raided Joseph Rivers’ life savings earlier this year. Rivers, an aspiring businessman and music executive in Detroit, took $16,000 in cash, the seed money required for starting a music company, and boarded a train. DEA agents stopped him at Amtrak station, Albuquerque, and searched his belongings. They could not find any evidence of drug on him, but they seized his cash and did not charge him with any crime.
It is the perceived feeling of anonymity offered by the virtual currency that obviously encouraged Force to invent online personas and send encrypted messages to fraudulently obtain thousands of dollars worth bitcoins not only from the person being investigated, but also the government. However, Leslie Caldwell, Assistant Attorney General, clarified in a statement regarding Bridges and Force that the Department of Justice would not tolerate corruption, online or otherwise, committed by law enforcement officers.
As such, the guilty plea by Force should send the message across that neither the use of virtual currency, the dark web’s anonymity nor the misuse of the law enforcement badge can shield anyone from the law.