The Silk Road case exemplified images associated with corrupt law enforcement officers. Carl M. Force, a former DEA agent, extorted 80 bitcoins from the owner of the Silk Road marketplace. Shaun W. Bridges, ex-Secret Service, stole money using admin accounts. A Federal judge gave them both prison time. But now, Ross Ulbricht’s defense team found signs of a third corrupt officer. This agent, the team said, gave lawyers sufficient reason to believe evidence tampering was now obvious.
In a press conference on November 29, lawyers announced the discovery of new chat logs. They were between Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR) and a mysterious figure known as “albertpacino.” Additional logs surfaced, too. The defense also found conversations between DPR and “alpacino,” or “notwonderful.” Albertpacino offered DPR information about law enforcement’s investigation in exchange for weekly payments. Notably, Carl Force offered the same service. According to the defense team, these logs were new. Earlier versions of the forum’s chat logs lacked the “alpacino” chats. The defense team said said that law enforcement tampered with evidence—to cover up the chat logs, at the minimum.
Lindsay Lewis, one of Ulbricht’s attorneys said:
We find this to be a significant discovery, considering that we’ve always believed that there was other corruption that we didn’t know about and the government didn’t know about either. It further calls into question the integrity of the entire Silk Road investigation.
Albertpacino’s existence failed to stand out initially. DPR, in his journals, wrote about “albertpacino,” a DEA agent that traded evidence for bitcoin. Carl Force, the now-convicted DEA agent, offered the same service. Many believed “albertpacino” was simply another pseudonym used by Force. Additionally, a diary Ulbricht kept on his laptop made several mentions of “albertpacino.” The prosecution used the diary as evidence in Ulbricht’s trial. And the team’s discovery of “albertpacino” was no revelation. “There are really tons of useful nuggets that I do have to offer,” alpacino wrote. He added “and what my birdie doesn’t know, he can probably find out.”
Wired sums up the defense’s view on alpacino:
Ulbricht’s defense team argues that alpacino is, in fact, a different law enforcement official. Or at least someone with connections to law enforcement. They point to the fact that the initial court filing that accused Carl Mark Force of corruption listed alpacino as one of his pseudonyms. But that alias was dropped from Force’s criminal complaint, indictment and all subsequent court documents.
The team additionally noted that alpacino demanded only $500, weekly, from DPR. Force required much more money and, instead of weekly, he wanted it all up front. Ulbricht’s defense filed a demand with the government to get all details pertaining to alpacino.
Joshua Dratel, the lead defense attorney, said these findings may lead to a discovery. And, furthermore, could lead to a new trial motion. Lindsey Lewis from Dratel’s office explained the importance of the findings:
The deletion of the Silk Road forum database […] is significant because it confirms further tampering with the Silk Road investigation. And the evidence is […] distinct from SA Force and SA Bridges’ corruption. This revelation definitively establishes that the digital evidence in Ross’s case lacks integrity.
In addition, since even the backup copy [of the server] is incomplete we still do not know what else DPR learned about the Silk Road. The defense at trial was that DPR conceived and executed an exit strategy to frame Ross Ulbricht and those six weeks are therefore critical.
The six weeks Lewis referred to were the weeks of missing data. There was no way to know what information DPR learned about the case in those six week, Lewis said.
Lewis said the evidence discovered was only evidence of tampered evidence. The defense team will not stop here. More evidence is out there, she said. “This is just what we have. It begs the question of what don’t we have,” she says. “We don’t yet know what we don’t know.”
Conversations between DPR and this DEA agent can be found on Gwern’s website.