Former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Carl Force IV has been sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison for alleged fraud perpetrated during the Silk Road investigation and other bitcoin-related crimes.
Silk Road was the largest online marketplace for drugs and other illegal merchandise. Bitcoin was the common currency. The site was taken down roughly two years ago and its alleged mastermind, Ross Ulbricht (DPR), was sentenced to life in prison in May this year.
On July 1, Force pleaded guilty to charges of extortion, money laundering and obstruction of justice.
While part of the Baltimore-based task force, Force posed as ‘French Maid’ and offered Silk Road administrator Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR) information on the investigation in exchange for bitcoins. He also posed as a drug dealer and offered to sell DPR information from a corrupt Justice Department employee. He did make the DEA aware of his conversations, but claimed that no payments were made. He then allegedly transferred the funds to personal accounts.
Outside of the Silk Road investigation, he allegedly sent a fake subpoena to mobile payments company Venmo, which had frozen his account due to suspicious activity. In addition, he allegedly abused his credentials to threaten bitcoin exchange Bitstamp, which had also frozen his funds.
He also managed to become an investor/compliance officer with crypto exchange CoinMKT, where he ordered the funds in one account to be frozen for suspicious activity. He then had the funds transferred to his personal account.
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Force also planned on contacting Twenty-First Century Fox to make a movie about Silk Road. He would have received $240,000 in the deal.
Shortly after pleading guilty in the summer, Force was ordered to forfeit roughly $500,000 in the first stage of his sentencing.
The sentence was dealt by Judge Richard Seeborg in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Prosecutors had sought a 7-year term because Force betrayed public trust, jeopardized the Silk Road investigation and perpetrated his crimes consistently and repeatedly. Force’s attorney, Ivan Bates, sought a 2-year sentence. “There’s no doubt he’s going to jail. He’s lost his career. He’s lost his marriage, he’s lost everything he’s had. He’ll always have a life sentence because of the mental health issues he has,” he argued.
Force is one of two federal agents who were charged with stealing bitcoins during the Silk Road investigation. The other, former Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges, pleaded guilty at the end of August. He is accused of embezzling $820,000 worth of bitcoin. His sentencing is scheduled for December.
Ulbricht supporters, among others, argue that the agents’ convictions show that the Silk Road investigation and trial were unlawfully conducted. Ulbricht’s attorney, Joshua Dratel, stated that he plans on appealing the case.