Ex-Agent Charged in Bitcoin Case Attempted Identity Change

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A former U.S. Secret Service agent charged with stealing more than $800,000 in bitcoins while investigating the Silk Road Internet drug emporium tried to change his identity after reaching an agreement to plead guilty, prosecutors said.

A federal judge on Monday ordered Shaun Bridges to submit to electronic monitoring and a curfew after a prosecutor said Bridges sought to change his name and Social Security number and was found with illegal firearms, including an assault weapon.

The government learned of the multiple attempts by Bridges to change his identity just hours before an otherwise routine hearing Monday in which he was scheduled to plead guilty to money laundering and obstruction of justice, prosecutor Kathryn Haun told U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco. Haun told the judge that Bridges, who reached the plea deal in June, may try flee if allowed to remain free on bail and should be locked up while he awaits his sentencing in December.

While Seeborg accepted the plea, he told Bridges and his lawyer, Steven Levin, that the attempted identity changes raise “red flags.”

“I’m not surprised they’re bringing this to my attention,” the judge said, referring to Haun’s request. “Give me a reason why I shouldn’t be quite distressed by this.”

Recent Victim

Levin said that Bridges wanted to change his name because he was a former government employee and a recent victim of identity theft. Bridges told Seeborg he had petitioned a court to let him take his wife’s name.

Haun disputed that account, saying Bridges attempted to assume various new names. It was also suspicious because he failed to notify a pretrial officer handling Bridges’ detention, she said. The U.S. recovered four guns, including the assault weapon, that Bridges illegally possessed, Haun said.

Bridges served on a Baltimore task force whose investigation led to murder-for-hire and drug charges against Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht, known online as Dread Pirate Roberts. In a New York case, Ulbricht was convicted by a jury of conspiracy and drug trafficking through the cyber-bazaar and sentenced to life in prison.

Bridges admitted he stole $820,000 in bitcoins that he got control of during the probe.

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