In the latest blow to the troubled U.S. Secret Service, former agent Shaun W. Bridges (above, right) will plead guilty to stealing $820,000 worth of Bitcoins from online drug marketplace Silk Road. Bridges confessed to taking the money before exchanging it at the Mt Gox Bitcoin before fleeing.
Bridges' lawyer, Steve Hale Levin, told Bloomberg that “Mr. Bridges has regretted his actions from the very beginning. His decision to plead guilty reflects his complete acceptance of responsibility and is another step towards rehabilitation.”
Bridges was a member of the taskforce that apprehended Silk Road ringleaders Curtis Green and Ross Ulbricht, and was one of two agents accused of stealing from the crime scene. It is claimed that he used his credentials to take from the dealers’ accounts, after which Ulbricht contracted a professional hit against Green, thinking he was the one responsible. The trial for that crime is pending.
Another agent, Carl Force (above photo, left), also stands accused of blackmailing Ulbricht for $235,000 (the money was deposited into a Panama account) and offering him information on the ongoing investigation for a substantial amount of Bitcoin. Force was supposedly paid $90,000 in Bitcoins for giving Ulbricht information and a false identity to avoid arrest.
The government began to suspect Force when he did not turn in his PGP key, which was used to encrypt his meetings with Ulbricht. A transaction between Ulbricht and Force was later discovered in a Bitcoin blockchain. The agent may have also taken Bitcoin wallets and solicited help from another agent to hide his actions.
Ulbricht, despite being the world's safest drug dealer, was sentenced to life in prison for running the Silk Road, and Bridges’ plea will be heard in August.
The incident comes after a slew of issues with the Secret Service over the past year, with agents caught driving drunk, hiring prostitutes and committing serious lapses in security that have led to repeated security breaches at the White House.
In addition to serious financial crimes, the agency is tasked with providing security for President Obama.