Ex-U.S. Agent Who Stole Bitcoins Gets 6 1/2 Years in Prison

  • Carl Force led federal probe of Silk Road online drug bazaar
  • Force's lawyer sought leniency based on mental health decline

The former U.S. agent who led the investigation of the illegal Silk Road Internet drug emporium was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in digital currency during the probe.

A defense lawyer failed to win sympathy Monday from a San Francisco federal judge after blaming the government for “poor supervision” of Drug Enforcement Administration agent Carl Force while his mental health was in decline.

Calling Force’s fraud clever, sophisticated and “devious,” U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg said the ex-agent “was the master of his fate in this whole disgraceful episode.”

“Why should he get a break for this?” the judge told Force’s lawyer, Ivan Bates. “I just don’t see it.”

Force pleaded guilty to charges that he stole Bitcoins during the investigation of Silk Road, which led to the conviction of the site’s founder Ross Ulbricht. A New York judge sentenced Ulbricht, who called himself “Dread Pirate Roberts” online, to life in prison in May.

Without telling his superiors, Force adopted the alias “French Maid” to extort and negotiate with Ulbricht, selling information about the government’s investigation in exchange for payment, prosecutors said. Using the alias and others, Force channeled more than $400,000 in digital currency to his personal bank accounts, according to the government.

Force’s plea agreement follows a similar deal reached June 17 with Shaun Bridges, a U.S. Secret Service agent who worked with Force on the same Baltimore task force and was also charged with stealing bitcoins.

The case is USA v. Force, 15-cr-00319, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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