Corrupt DEA Agent In Silk Road Investigation Gets Six-Year Jail Sentence

By McCarton Ackerman 10/21/15

Agent Carl Force extorted Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht.

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The government’s investigation of Silk Road not only led founder Ross Ulbricht to receive a life sentence, but also a former U.S. federal agent to receive significant prison time.

Carl Force, a former agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, was sentenced on Monday to 78 months in prison for stealing bitcoins during the investigation and for secretly soliciting payment from Ulbricht. He admitted to charges of extortion, money laundering, and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors recommended an 87-month sentence and Force’s attorney asked for a four-year sentence due to his mental health issues.

Force, operating as “Nob” on a Baltimore-based federal task force, convinced Ulbricht in August 2013 to pay him $50,000 in bitcoins by pretending he had information on the investigation. Although the conversation was reported to the DEA, he claimed that no money was exchanged and funneled the currency into a personal account. He later used another online moniker one month later, French Maid, and asked Ulbricht for $98,000 in exchange for information on the investigation.

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg said during Force’s sentencing that the level of betrayal was “breathtaking.” Force apologized to the American people and his family, claiming that he “lost it and don’t understand a lot of it."

Meanwhile, Ulbricht’s $11 million bitcoin fortune has been put up for auction by the government. U.S. Marshals will facilitate the auction of roughly 44,331 bitcoins, which is scheduled to take place between Oct. 19 and Nov. 2. The bitcoins were seized by authorities in November 2013 and Ulbricht agreed to surrender them as part of his sentencing. Authorities recovered 144,000 bitcoins in total from Ulbricht's computer that had a value of $17.2 million.

Anyone bidding for them is being asked to lodge a deposit of $100,000 beforehand. Each individual bitcoin was worth about $1,000 in late 2013, but has since dropped to about $250 each. The online form of currency was used to help the online dark web market generate over $214 million in drug sales.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.