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Ex-Feds Accused Of Pocketing Bitcoins During Investigation

Two former federal agents accused of stealing bitcoins have been charged with wire fraud, money laundering and related offenses, the U.S. Justice Department said in a statement.

Carl Force, a former special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Shaun Bridges, a former Secret Service special agent, were both part of a Baltimore task force investigating Silk Road, the online marketplace often labeled the eBay of the drug trade. Force was given the task of establishing communications with Ross Ulbricht, aka "Dread Pirate Roberts," the San Francisco man who has been linked to Silk Road. Ulbricht was convicted last month of seven drug and conspiracy charges and is due to be sentenced May 15.

The Justice Department statement says Force, as part of his undercover operations, communicated online with Ulbricht. The complaint, which was unsealed Monday in San Francisco, then alleges that Force, without authority, created several online personas "and engaged in complex Bitcoin transactions to steal from the government and the targets of the investigation." He has been charged with wire fraud, theft of government property, money laundering and conflict of interest.

Bridges, meanwhile, is accused of diverting more than $800,000 in bitcoins to his personal account. He is charged with wire fraud and money laundering.

"The complaint alleges that Bridges placed the assets into an account at Mt. Gox, the now-defunct digital currency exchange in Japan," the statement said. "He then allegedly wired funds into one of his personal investment accounts in the United States mere days before he sought a $2.1 million seizure warrant for Mt. Gox's accounts."

Force was arrested Friday in Baltimore; Bridges self-surrendered Monday. Both men are due in court today: Bridges in California and Force in Maryland.

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Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.
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