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Ex-Secret Service agent who investigated Silk Road may have stolen another $700,000

Jul 05, 20163 mins
Data and Information SecurityInternet SecuritySecurity

Former Secret Service Special Agent Shawn Bridges may have been involved in two more bitcoin thefts

“Plead guilty, then steal more” seems to have been the motto of a former corrupt federal agent involved in the Silk Road investigation.

Ex-U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Shawn Bridges, who was part of Baltimore’s Silk Road Task Force and stole $820,000 in bitcoins during the investigation that led to Ross Ulbricht’s conviction, eventually pled guilty to money laundering and obstruction of justice. Bridges, who had served as the forensics and technical expert on the task force, was sentenced to nearly five years, 71 months, in prison. Yet newly unsealed court documents show that Bridges is suspected of stealing another $700,000 in bitcoins after he pled guilty about two months before he was sentenced.

The government suspects Bridge was involved in two more bitcoin thefts; he is suspected of stealing “approximately $700,000” in bitcoins in July 2015 and about another $20,000 in bitcoins in September.

Unsealed documents show that after the U.S. attorney in Maryland seized 1,606 bitcoins from Bitstamp in November 2014, Bridges put the crypto currency in a bitcoin wallet he created. The warrant was later disputed, and the Secret Service was ordered to return $30,616 worth of bitcoins to Bitstamp clients. But the money had poofed. In fact, the bitcoins had been moved after Bridges’ plea agreement had been finalized in late June 2015.

In April 2015, the Justice Department found out Bridges may have kept the private crypto key to access the bitcoin wallet containing about $700,000 worth of bitcoins that had been seized during the Silk Road investigation. Its suggestion to move to funds had been ignored and the Secret Service didn’t discover the money was missing until the agency was ordered to pay a portion of it back.

The only person “that is conclusively known to have access was Bridges.” The bitcoin wallet addresses contained in the withdrawal account records had been anonymized by a bitcoin tumbler, and the person accessing the BTC-e account had been using TOR. These were areas where Bridges was an expert. The government asked Microsoft (pdf) to hand over subscriber and other records for the email account, which was associated with the account where the bitcoins had been moved.

Bridges had been trying to legally change his name to Calogero Esposito, while shielding that information from public record, as well as obtain a new Social Security number. His petitions continued to be denied. Emergency motion Exhibit A (pdf) also reveals that Bridges’ PayPal account had been used when he attempted to procure a birth certificate from Germany and a different marriage certificate. The government believed he may have had a “willing accomplice to help him conceal funds and/or flee.”

It is unknown what happened after this or if there will be additional charges filed against Bridges. He is currently serving his sentence in Terre Haute, Indiana.

If you really want to be sickened, watch Deep Web—if you haven’t already seen it. While it doesn’t definitely answer some of the most complicated questions about Silk Road and the investigation, such as how the FBI managed to “legally” locate Silk Road servers and if Roberts was even behind planning a murder or just framed for it, it will make you question the “justice” of Ross Ulbricht, aka Dread Pirate Roberts, being sentenced to life in prison.

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.