Former Secret Service special agent Shaun W. Bridges plead guilty to skimming hundreds of thousands of dollars in bitcoin and routing the funds to his own accounts. Court officials announced the guilty plea on Sunday. Bridges is one of many federal agents involved in digging up evidence that brought up charges against Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht and the shutdown in 2013 of Silk Road. Bridges was a computer crime expert with the Secret Service task force assigned to the Silk Road case. Ulbricht eventually was convicted of narcotics trafficking, computer hacking, running a criminal enterprise and money laundering and was sentenced to life in prison last month.
Bridges discovered more than just evidence, according to criminal complaints filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Bridges accessed Silk Road’s systems in January 2013, reset several passwords and transferred about 20,000 bitcoin from the accounts, according to the complaint. He then converted the bitcoin into cash through a Japan-based bitcoin exchange and from there sent the money to the shell company’s investment accounts, investigators said.
Along with Bridges, Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Carl Force is suspected of also stealing thousands of bitcoins seized during a raid of the Silk Road. They both are accused of wire fraud, money laundering and other crimes. Bridges agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud and money laundering and is scheduled to be sentenced in late August. Force is expected to face a hearing in August as well. Between January of 2011 and October of 2013, it is estimated that the Silk Road facilitated about $215 million dollars worth of drug deals and other illicit activities. Bridges lawyer spoke to Bloomberg News saying “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.”
Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht blasted the U.S. investigation in response to the guilty plea from Bridges, saying it proved that the investigation was corrupt. After a three-week jury trial, Ulbricht was convicted of drug trafficking charges in addition to charges related to money laundering, distributing a fake ID, and distributing computer hacking tools. Last month he was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. Force, the lead undercover agent in communication with the Dread Pirate Roberts, the alias Ulbricht allegedly used, also stole $90,000 in bitcoins that Ulbricht paid him under an officially sanctioned alias used for the probe, prosecutors said. The case is U.S. v. Bridges, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 15-cr-319.