Former Baltimore DEA Agent Pleads Guilty to Extortion, Money Laundering

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The story of Silk Road, the once-thriving online drug marketplace, is insane, with more twists and turns than a windy mountain road. Perhaps the most unexpected–or the most predictable, if you’re cynical–was how some of the agents tasked with taking down Silk Road instead became enamored with the idea that they, too, could get rich quick.

That’s apparently what happened to Baltimore-based DEA Agent Carl Force, who this week pled guilty to extortion, money laundering, and obstruction of justice. Force spent more than a year as an undercover agent, endearing himself to the mysterious founder of Silk Road, who at that point was only known as the Dread Pirate Roberts. Posing as a drug cartel kingpin, Force helped DPR call in (fake) hits on problematic Silk Road users. But in a tale as old as time, it seems that Force, too, became corrupted.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney General Leslie Caldwell, “seduced by the perceived anonymity of virtual currency and the dark web, Force used invented online personas and encrypted messaging to fraudulently obtain bitcoin worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from the government and investigative targets alike.” In other words: When DPR sent money to the “cartel boss,” Force kept the money in his own account and converted it to dollars, rather than turning it over to the government. He also seized digital currency in various other operations as well. He snagged about $400,000 worth of bitcoin, all told. He’s also in trouble for selling his rights to the story to a movie studio for $240,000–without first getting DEA approval.

Force will be sentenced in October. Another Marylander–former Secret Service Special Agent Shaun Bridges of Laurel–is also on trial for money laundering related to the Silk Road Trial.


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