You may remember Silk Road, the “deep web” black market website where customers could purchase everything from drugs and guns to the services of hit men. Its founder, known as “Dread Pirate Roberts,” was a 29-year-old from Texas with an undergraduate degree in physics, who went to a prestigious graduate program in materials science at Penn State. (WaPo). He was ultimately convicted at a trial and sentenced to life in prison.
However, this conviction may be in question with the recent disclosure (known to the government at the time of the trial) that the lead DEA and Secret Service agents involved in the investigation extorted and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Bitcoins, and were also attempting to obtain employment from potential suspects and witnesses, all throughout the course of the investigation. (Forbes).
The federal criminal complaint by the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice alleges that these lead agents “abused their positions as federal agents and engaged in a scheme to defraud a variety of third-parties, the public, and the government, all for their own financial enrichment.” (Federal Criminal Complaint).
Specifically, as Forbes describes it:
The criminal complaint against former DEA agent Carl Mark Force IV and former Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges alleges money laundering, wire fraud, theft of government property, and more. But more shockingly, it tells the story of a sprawling case tainted by an unbelievable web of corruption. A state’s witness took the fall for an agent’s theft, thus becoming the target for a murder-for-hire—a murder that was then faked by the same agent. The Silk Road case was compromised again and again as Force and Bridges allegedly took every opportunity to embezzle and steal money. With so much bitcoin on their hands, the two had to coax various bitcoin and payments companies to help convert their ill-gotten gains to dollars. When companies resisted, investigations were launched, subpoenas were issued, and civil forfeitures were sought in retaliation.
This government retaliation targeted Venmo, among other companies, one of which received a note from Force after having their funds seized stating, “told you [you] should have partnered with me!”
Lawyers for Silk Road’s founder unsuccessfully moved for a new trial, arguing that much of the information alleged in the criminal complaint was exculpatory yet not disclosed to them sufficiently in advance of trial. His case in now on appeal. A website http://freeross.org/ has been set up to aid in his defense.
The information alleged in the criminal complaint against the former DEA and Secret Service agents, if true, shows the immense power federal law enforcement officers have and illustrates why, as Raleigh federal criminal defense attorneys, we dig deep to uncover any government misconduct that may have occurred in a federal criminal investigation. If you believe you have been wronged by government misconduct, call one of our Raleigh federal criminal defense attorneys at (919) 833-3114 to schedule an appointment.