It turns out that Ross Ulbricht is not the only criminal casualty in the Silk Road saga. Apparently, two former federal agents have been charged with money laundering and fraud stemming from their investigation into Silk Road and Ulbricht’s ultimate conviction last month on numerous counts.
The dragnet which ensnared Ulbricht, as much for his hubris as his criminality, also entangled Carl Mark Force IV of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges – both members of the Baltimore-based task force that investigated Silk Road. It is alleged that they both profited from the information they obtained developing the case against Ulbricht.
Whether Ulbricht plans to appeal his conviction, and whether this appeal gains traction, may hinge on the trove of evidence gleaned in the process of arresting the two federal officers – not all of which was disclosed at Ulbricht’s trial, perhaps to the detriment of his case.
At the time when charges were announced against Ulbricht in October 2013, and the website shut down, authorities called Silk Road “the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet.” It operated under the radar of law enforcement by enabling anonymous transactions, including those of illegal drugs using Bitcoins.
Ulbricht consistently maintained that although he may have conceived of the website and legally operated it for years, he had long since relinquished control of it. The case against him, and the weakness of his defense, prompted the jury to only deliberate for three and a half hours before returning with a guilty verdict.
However, this new revelation and the resulting arrest of former investigators puts the conviction in a new light, tainting the verdict and providing plausible grounds for appeal by Ulbricht’s defense team. Might they have been overzealous in pursuing their investigation of Ulbricht, while lining their own pockets with several hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of Bitcoins in the meantime?
What is also troubling is that the evidence supporting the allegations against the investigators were kept out of Ulbricht’s trial. What other exculpatory evidence might also have been suppressed in the pell-mell rush to judgement?
It is possible that more was on trial here than just Ross Ulbricht – perhaps the trial was more of a government response and reaction to the privacy and anonymity afforded by the Internet that is feares and loathes ,and that Ulbricht is merely the “fall guy” his lawyers allege he is?