Shaun Bridges, a former secret service agent who was part of the investigation into the now-defunct dark website Silk Road – but who was subsequently prosecuted for stealing $800,000 in the online crypto-currency bitcoin from the site – has been arrested at his home in Laurel, Maryland, the day before he was scheduled to hand himself in to begin his prison sentence.
An arrest warrant was issued under seal on Wednesday and executed on Thursday. During the arrest, according to court documents, officers found bags containing Bridges’s passport and a notarised copy of his passport, as well as corporate records for three offshore entities in Nevis, Belize and Mauritius.
He also had several secret service-issued bulletproof vests which the state contends had been stolen from the government.
The web of corruption surrounding the Silk Road investigation was nothing short of breathtaking. Along with an undercover agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency, Carl Force, Bridges was involved in the investigation into “Dread Pirate Roberts”, the mysterious figure behind Silk Road. Force was in communication with the Roberts account under the alias “Nob”.
“Dread Pirate Roberts” turned out to be Ross Ulbricht, who was arrested in 2013 and charged with conspiracy to traffic drugs and the attempted purchase of a murder-for-hire. In 2015, he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
But the Force and Bridges affair was to prove a humiliating coda for the government, leading attorneys for Ulbricht to say that corruption “pervaded the investigation of Silk Road”.
Force, using the other aliases “French Maid” and “Death From Above”, used the knowledge gleaned during the investigation to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bitcoin from Ulbricht. The pair also siphoned bitcoin given to them by the government for use in the investigation into personal accounts, even setting up bitcoin investment funds, called Quantum Investments and Engedi LLC, in their own name.
Ulbricht believed the bitcoin had been stolen by a Silk Road employee, Curtis Green, who was in fact a state’s witness. He used “Nob” – who was really Force – to procure the murder-for-hire for which he was eventually convicted, and Force, Green, and Bridges faked Green’s death.
Force is currently serving a 6.5-year sentence, and Bridges is in custody and considered a flight risk, according to the government’s motion detailing his arrest, though the Department of Justice did not respond to several requests by the Guardian for more information.