Former Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges has been sentenced to 71 months in prison for his involvement in stealing from the Silk Road site, while performing several federal investigations of the website. Bridges’ sentence is the second for the team of government agents that went rogue to make fast money.
Bridges along with his partner, former Drug Enforcement Agent Carl Mark Force were arrested in March 2015 on charges of stealing Bitcoins from the largest drug-trafficking website at the time. On July 1, Force formally pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six and a half years in prison in October.
Within days, Bridges pleaded guilty to money laundering and obstruction of justice, and additionally agreed to pay $500,000 in restitution. Both men were part of the larger end game, working alongside Ross Ulbricht, the mastermind behind the Silk Road. The 31 year old Ulbricht was tried and sentenced to life in prison in May of this year.
“I wish I could go back and convince myself to take a different path,” Ulbricht said at his sentencing. “If given the chance, I would never break the law again.”
Bridges was just as remorseful at his sentencing. Wearing a black suit and a tie, he showed no emotion during the proceeding but admitted his faults.
“I’ve lost a lot,” Bridges said during the trial. “I’ve accepted responsibility…I just [want] to apologize to everybody.”
Bridges’ lawyers requested the judge impose a sentence of three years in their own sentencing memo, explaining the situation as a “profound tragedy” for a man of previous “exceptional professional accomplishment.” Bridges professional career was highlighted by honors and achievement, but now seems tarnished by a greedy desire for bitcoins.
In spite of the lawyers’ request, Bridges received a very similar sentence as his partner Force had received in June. A 12-page memorandum written to the court requested nothing less than the minimum 71 months’ imprisonment – the recommended sentence by the Probation Department. The document continued to explain that this was not a one-time lapse in judgement but a conspired effort with planning and considerable calculations, “designed to avoid detection.”
At the time of the arrest, the value of the stolen Bitcoins had risen well over $800,000. The stakes were therefore very high, and Bridges worked vigilantly to get what he needed including a cover up.
Curtis Green, the Silk Road employee was arrested in January 2013, and became the main victim in Bridges’ cover up. Following Green’s arrest, Bridges took Green’s administrator credentials and locked out drug dealers from their accounts while quickly looting the bitcoins, to make it appear that Green was stealing the money, not Bridges. Green received death threats and feared for his life following his own sentencing.
During Bridges’ spree all the stolen currency was transferred into a standard Mt. Gox exchange account in Japan, where more than $300,000 remained at the time of his arrest.
In securing all this money, Bridges had contaminated numerous cases under investigation by the US government. Bridges even tried to hide his tracks when he knew it was too late for him. He ordered a civil seizure warrant against Mt. Gox founder Mark Karpeles to overshadow his own money laundering. He quickly moved his own funds from his account to a shell company, Quantum International Investments LCC, but was caught in the end.
Bridges’ sentence is one of many in the spiral fallout of the Silk Road case. This past week, one of Ulbricht’s top advisers was arrested in Thailand, and is awaiting extradition to the United States. And while these criminals are served their justice it is still unclear how many more will come to light in the months ahead.