‘Silk Road’ investigator to take plea deal for Bitcoin thefts

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — A former special agent and computer forensics expert with the U.S. Secret Service has reached a plea deal on charges he fraudulently obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars in bitcoin during the investigation into the online black market “Silk Road,” according to court documents.

Shaun Bridges, 32, will plead guilty to wire fraud and money laundering in late August or early September, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco Wednesday.

Bridges was charged along with former Drug Enforcement Administration Carl Force, 46, with stealing online currency while investigating 31-year-old Ross Ulbricht, also known as “Dread Pirate Roberts,” the mastermind behind the online drug bazaar.

Ulbricht was arrested at a San Francisco public library in October 2013 and convicted of distributing narcotics, conspiracy, hacking, trafficking false identity documents, and conspiring to commit money laundering. He was sentenced to life in prison last month.

But before his conviction, federal charges were brought against the two investigators, which Ulbricht’s attorney has said calls the legitimacy of the evidence against Ulbricht into question.

The two investigators allegedly collaborated on money laundering techniques to collect bitcoin that Force obtained through fraud and extortion while posing as various users on the website, according to prosecutors.

Bridges himself allegedly stole more than $820,000 after obtaining administration credentials for Silk Road from a former employee who was arrested and agreed to cooperate with investigators.

The widespread thefts drew Ulbricht’s attention and he even attempted to hire a hit man to kill the employee, believing he was still in control of the account, according to prosecutors.

Bridges remained with the Secret Service until March 2014 as the investigation into his and Force’s activities went on. Once he learned he was being suspended, he resigned abruptly and attempted to wipe an Apple laptop when instructed to check it into evidence.

The terms of Bridges’ plea deal were not immediately disclosed. The charges against Force, which include theft of government property and conflict of interest in addition to wire fraud and money laundering, are still pending.

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