Following the conclusion of the trial of Ross Ulbricht, the government revealed what the Ulbricht’s defense had already known (but was barred from discussing during the trial), that two of the US government agents who gathered much of the evidence that convicted Ulbricht, the Secret Service’s Shaun Bridges and the DEA’s Carl Mark Force IV, were being indicted for stealing a great deal of Ulbricht’s horde of bitcoins.
Prior to the jury verdict, such information could easily have contributed to a doubtful jury or even a bias toward jury nullification amongst jurors. Of course, this information was not all that was barred from the New York courtroom where Ulbricht was ultimately given life in prison.
Now to top it all off, Bridges will never stand trial. According to Bloomberg, he has entered a guilty plea, which will head off a jury trial and more than likely get him a lesser sentence than a full trial would have. In particular, he is guilty of stealing more than $800,000 in bitcoins while posing as a Silk Road customer support worker who had been arrested. In a bungled move, he eventually washed the coins through Mt. Gox and moved them back to a US bank account.
Bridge’s attorney told Bloomberg, “Mr. Bridges has regretted his actions from the very beginning. His decision to plead guilty reflects his complete acceptance of responsibility and is another step towards rehabilitation.”
The details of his plea agreement have yet to be disclosed in a public way. Agents acting so far outside of the realm of good conduct can sometimes be harshly dealt with, but often things like their career of good service are brought to bear in the eyes of the court. Many of our readers will be astonished no matter what sentence Bridges and Force ultimately get, since their misconduct was never mentioned in the court that gave Ross Ulbricht a life sentence in addition to incredibly high fines.
Bridges’ actions are in contrast to Agent Force, who was much more ambitious in his methods of profiting from the site some have described him as dedicated to dismantling. In his case, the funds were moved through Panama, and could possibly never be recovered by the US Government, who considers all of this money to be evidence, and now that Ulbricht has been convicted, seized assets.
Updated: June 18, 2015 at 8:59 am CET.
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