Silk Road

Federal Agent Investigating Silk Road Pleads Guilty to Extortion and Money Laundering

Carl Mark Force had also inked a $240,000 movie deal about tracking down "Dread Pirate Roberts."

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Via Debby Witt's Twitter feed comes word of the latest conviction related to the Silk Road. It's not a pretty picture:

Carl Mark Force, the head of a Baltimore-based team of law enforcement that investigated the Silk Road drug trafficking website, has pled guilty to extortion, money laundering, and obstruction of justice.

Standing before US District Judge Richard Seeborg in an orange inmate's jumpsuit, Force admitted that he stole from the Silk Road—and its founder Ross Ulbricht—even as he was investigating the website….

Acting as "Nob," the government-sanctioned account through which he interacted with Ulbricht's online persona Dread Pirate Roberts, Force took payments from Ulbricht that he didn't tell his superiors about and diverted the bitcoins into his personal accounts. Ulbricht was tried earlier this year and sentenced to life in prison in May.

He also created a second unauthorized account, "French Maid," from which he collected approximately $100,000 (£64,000) in bitcoins by offering "counter-intelligence" on law enforcement.

An attempt to extort money from DPR using a third account, "Death From Above," wasn't successful.

The government also charged Force with having multiple conflicts of interest, including a contract from 20th Century Fox to be paid up to $240,000 (£153,000) to tell his story for an upcoming movie. It isn't clear how much of that, if any, Force actually got paid. The contract was signed in 2014, and Force didn't reveal it to his superiors at the DEA.

Read more at Ars Technica.

Reason on Silk Road and its admitted founder, Ross Ulbricht.

In late May, Kurt Loder and Reason TV reported live from the sentencing of Ulbricht. Take a look:

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  1. This case is utterly nauseating. These pathetic crooks in our government are using this as a way to enrich themselves and advance their careers while some poor guy who set up a website spends the rest of his life in prison. Seriously, this is so fucked up it makes me want to take some action. Any suggestions?

    1. First, build a factory that makes woodchippers.

      1. Deadly serious. I’m a veteran and once pledged to give my life to defend this great nation against all enemies–foreign and domestic. These people are domestic enemies no different than the Mafia. I’m an old man with not much time left and would gladly sacrifice myself if I knew it would have a big impact. Interpret that as you wish…

        1. So you’re not up on the whole reason gets subpoenaed over comments about the Ulbricht sentencing, then?

          1. I am. And they can come get me. But good luck finding me since I haven’t had a permanent address in almost two years and have nothing to lose.

            1. Then, being aware of that situation, you are also aware that the hosts and providers of reason.com suffered both financially and in less tangible terms from the government’s investigation, and that your comments invite more such harassment. They furthermore provide all the retards who thought those comments should be investigated as threats with ammunition to now say “Aha! Told you so!”.

              That’s rude of you to say the least. I might agree with you about the injustice of their actions but if trolling for feds is how you’re going to respond, maybe consider just pissing off instead.

              1. Just to be clear, I’m just venting after reading a story that got my blood boiling. I made no direct threats against anyone–that’s not who I am. But it really sucks that the government’s un-Constitutional and heavy-handed tactics a few weeks back have made people afraid to speak up. They’re the ones who are escalating the situation. They have all the power and we have none. Why are they so afraid?

              2. ” I might agree with you about the injustice of their actions but”

                So it is best just to be a pussy and lay down and take it even if you don’t want it ?

                I think that’s called rape.

        2. Antilles,

          Being an anarchist who really wrestled with the same impulses you are describing, I want to caution you that no individual, or heroic band of people, can take on the federal leviathan and win.

          It’s like the battle between Santiago and The Democracy in Mike Resnick’s science fiction novel. “The Democracy has more starships than I have bullets” Santiago tells the bounty hunter who comes to kill him. You cannot put a dent in them. You cannot put them in fear for their lives. In Ruby Ridge, they murdered a woman and never faced consequences. In Waco they killed little children and faced no consequences. They spend more on propaganda in a day than 10 people can touch in a life-time. Every act of violence or armed resistance leaves them stronger.

          My ideological ancestors tried the Propaganda of the Deed, and to this day anarchy is dismissed as an evil philosophy and its adherents as violent bomb-throwers. It’s an approach that is worthless to us.

          If you are serious, take a page from guys like Ulbricht, or Jeffrey Tucker, or the guys who decided to humanize gays in Barney Miller. The government sucks at creating, and we are good at it.

          1. Thanks, Tarran. I hear you. I’m not a violent person by nature, but I learned long ago that if you allow bullies to push you around then they’ll continue to do so until you fight back. And the only thing bullies understand is violence. Of course, that doesn’t stop them and they just target others who they know won’t fight back. Somehow, we must inform the public that these so-called servants aren’t on our side. In most ways they’re WORSE than the alleged criminals they put away. Until more people realize that, these abuses will continue.

            1. Jesus!!! Antilles, they have talked you down the tree, he? One minute you were all gangbuster, now Tarran, who could easily be a government troll got you down the tree.

              There is NO such bullshit as a government. That is a word. What you have is a bunch of coward criminal gang members who join each other under the camouflage of the word “government”.

              In total, according to several sources, the largest amount may be 1,220,000 LEO. US population is 318.9 million…and that is WITHOUT counting the illegals. At those numbers you are 261 to 1. You outnumber the cuckolds by 260 men.

              Even with loaded weapons they can’t shoot you all.

              If each of you had a gun and started to gun for them. It would be all over for them. Prosecutors, judges, LEO, politicians etc etc. (Not Ron Paul and his son…please….these are good people).

              Here in Russia, if we see these American cops here, they are dead. And we usually just poison their food at restaurants, hotels etc etc. There is a movement in Europe already to start to poison American LEO agents. Best not to go to Europe if you are an American. If they think you are a cop….you may get poison easily. Even if they catch you, it’s a few years in prison in Europe and those are real country clubs.

              Think about it, 261 well-armed militia vs. 1 sniveling pussy-ass cop. Get your guns and let’s see what the Land of the FREE and HOME of the BRAVE is really all about!

          2. or the guys who decided to humanize gays in Barney Miller.

            So teh gay marriage is Barney Miller’s fault?

        3. I’m a veteran and once pledged to give my life to defend this great nation

          Warn your children and grandchildren about the danger and dishonor of government service. It’s the only way.

    2. Joking aside, I don’t know what to say.

      The situation is the product of an interaction of the horrible incentives described by public choice theory, the rational ignorance of the citizenry and the superstitions that breed in the zones of ignorance and the fact that evil wins because good is stupid.

      The guys in the state are now so powerful that they can effectively neuter opposition by harrying them via a million legal ways. So just getting on a soap box and pointing fingers will get you nowhere and may even bring the wrath of the IRS on family and friends if you are too effective.

      Certainly publicizing what’s happening doesn’t hurt. One could also do things to help those being harmed; I think if people were to correspond with Ross Ulbricht, it could make his imprisonment more bearable – and I’m sure an esoteric discussion of the finer bits of Human Action wouldn’t raise the ire of the prison censors.

      One could become politically active – although I think that’s not really productive.

      One could try to work on some technical improvements that break the back of state enforcement and make the laws pointless.

      In the end, I think truly effective action requires cultural change. Consider gay rights. Contrast how gays were portrayed in movies and TV prior to Stonewall; then how they were portrayed in Barney Miller; then finally how they were portrayed in Will and Grace and now.

      Laws lag behind the culture. So if you want to do something meaningful think about culture.

      1. You’re absolutely right. This problem has been growing and getting worse for decades (probably longer) and there are no quick, simple solutions. But it’s such a helpless feeling to see these bullies destroy innocent people’s lives over nothing! Venting helps me feel better but ultimately accomplishes nothing (and most people don’t want to hear it). Sometimes it’s just easier to go home after work and numb myself with whisky and weed and wait for it all to end.

        1. You are not wrong. And that’s why Stonewall was such a turning point. The gays fought back, and the cops, some of whom had fought the Japanese or the North Koreans in brutal, close combat, said that riot was the most frightening thing they ever experienced.

          But before Stonewall could happen, gay culture had to happen. The bars that catered to them had to open. The broader mainstream culture had to evolve to the point where they were open to the cries by gays that they were the victims of opression.

          In 1953, the same riot would have been ruthlessly put down and nothing would have come of it but some executions, beatings and jailings with the only notice a sneering clip in the New York Post.

          Only when the cultural conditions are right, can proportionate, defensive(!) violence bear great fruit.

          1. But the gay community was lucky that the mainstream media and virtually all forms of entertainment has been unapologetic in their support of gay people and their causes. The Left has shown very little desire to expose the abuses in the system they support or to lessen the Draconian sentences imposed on people who commit victimless crimes. Most people have no clue how corrupt the system is unless they’ve encountered a cop in the wild or are forced to navigate the Kafkaesque ‘justice’ system (as I have).

            1. virtually all forms of entertainment has been unapologetic in their support of gay people and their causes.

              Not in the 50’s. Not in the 60’s.

              Here’s what I suggest you do. Consider the hell Shona Banda is being put through. Reach out to her, or her lawyer, and ask how you can help. Don’t take unilateral action… *ask* them how *you* can help. And then do what they ask. What they ask may be pedestrian; it may seem a waste of time; it may ignore opportunities you think would be a more effective use of your time; nonetheless, do it well and with discipline. If they say “no, thanks.” then ask them whom they think you could help, and call *them*.

              I think you will very likely find something meaningful you can do to help turn the tide. It’s a hell of a lot of a better to strike a blow for the right than to despondently nurse a shot while contemplating the decay. You will love yourself more the next morning.

              1. Good advice. I’ll look into it. Thanks.

    3. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants extracted via woodchippers.

      1. for 100% vitamin and nutrient extraction!

    1. Damn, didn’t see that before making my post below. But yeah, of these two (Ulbricht and Yee) who committed the bigger crime and endangered more people? That’s not a trick question…

  2. If only Ulbricht could have gotten himself a LEO job first.

    1. Or become a politician. Local California politician (and vehement anti-gun activist) Leland Yee was arrested last year for gun and weapons smuggling. Guarantee that if he ever gets convicted he’ll do far less time in jail than Ulbricht.

  3. Federal agents, judges and prosecutors are the soul of integrity, they always do the right thing, they always respect the Constitution, and their personal hygiene is above reproach.

  4. It’s woodchippers all the way down.

    1. This is the trickle-down theory of woodchippers?

  5. Is there a single Federal law enforcement agency that stands out as being more venal and petty than all the rest? Obviously, they’re all terribly corrupt but if we had to rank them, then who would be first? FBI strikes me as a strong contender on an absolute basis but once you account for the sheer number of bumbling criminal justice flunkies working as field agents it may not crack the top-3 per capita.

    1. Part of the problem is that the abuses are all decentralized, and no one person or agency can be blamed. There are investigators who lie and destroy exculpatory evidence, prosecutors who overcharge, and judges who are determined to destroy anyone who doesn’t obey the state. They are literally like terrorist cells–taking out one would have little to no impact. The whole system is corrupt and it needs to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch. But that’s easier said than done.

      1. no one person or agency can be blamed

        I can and do blame any organization that has a pattern of misconduct for allowing the pattern, and I specifically blame senior management for facilitating a culture of lawbreaking.

  6. If you ever wanted a textbook example of how the government is nothing but a mafia, with its goons running around doing whatever the hell they want in between doing the higher-ups’ bidding, this is it.

    Monopolies, especially on force, create some of the most perverse incentives imaginable. Which means that government itself, inherently, creates incredibly perverse incentives. And this is what we get.

    1. Actually, they are far WORSE than the Mafia or any other criminal organization. Your average criminal can ruin your day, but a corrupt or overly-ambitious government agent can destroy your life. They can beat us, steal our property, and even kill us with impunity. I don’t understand why more people don’t realize that.

  7. Standing before US District Judge Richard Seeborg in an orange inmate’s jumpsuit, Force admitted that he stole from the Silk Road…

    He didn’t steal. He seized assets.

    1. The problem is that he stole what the government was planning to steal, and in doing so he made the FBI look bad by showing how superior the free market is to government action. I mean, if the aim is deprive criminal masterminds of their ill-gotten gains, didn’t Force act more quickly and efficiently and effectively than the FBI since he didn’t have to follow all those pesky rules about procedures and due process and evidence and trials and so forth – all that government regulation? See, the government can’t even run a decent criminal enterprise without fucking it up!

  8. Obviously, the lesson here is that it’s not wrong until you get caught at it and called to the carpet.

  9. I try to wrap my head around this to no avail. Life without the possibility of parole AND $183,000,000 in fines. I’m curious about the second part. An average hard-working man will earn less than $10,000,000 in his lifetime.

    Do the arithmetic with me. There are 40 working hours/week, 50 working-weeks/year, and somewhere between $10 and $100 / hour in pay. He will work for 40 years (this is wildly excessive, but go with the round numbers and payed as an IT pro at a steady rate $100/hr) . 40*50*100* 40 = $8,000,000. Who comes up with shit-numbers like this? It’s un-payable. If he defrauded others of the other $175,000,000, where is it?

    1. He defied the King and must be punished. I’m sure the judge would have sentenced him to death if that had been an option. What a petty, power-mad shrew…

    2. And all your numbers are pre income tax.

      You need a re do to accurately portray the differences.

  10. How is it that pervasive criminal activity by the investigators during the investigation, directed against the target of the investigation, doesn’t lead to the whole case against Ulbricht being dismissed.

    What kind of due process can you get when the prosecutors are committing crimes against you?

    1. That’s what I’m sayin’!

      It’s so crooked it’s ridiculous. They’re throwing the rule book out the window.

      At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to move him to Guantanamo.

    2. We can only hope President Paul pardons Ulbricht.

  11. To what extent was this guy’s testimony used to convict Ulbricht?

    The extreme bias against Ulbricht as expressed by the judge at sentencing alone would make you think Ulbricht deserves another trial, but if the evidence they used to convict him was collected by a crooked cop, then Ulbricht should be set free and paid restitution.

    1. Even if you don’t throw it out as void ab initio, I think there’s a case for retrial because the jury should be able to assess the credibility of the evidence and the witnesses, one of whom (that we know of) was actually committing crimes against the defendant as part of the investigation.

      I’m wondering if all the potentially exculpatory evidence challenging Force’s credibility and by extension the evidence he gathered, was being disclosed in real time to the defense. If not, they should definitely get a re-trial.

      1. The prosecution certainly knew their evidence was gathered illegally.

        Judge what’s-her-chipper probably didn’t. But thanks to her penchant for sucking government cock, she looks like an even bigger clown than a few weeks ago: “Thanks for throwing the book at someone based on illegally acquired evidence – smooches!”

        1. For all we know, she sicced the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York on the commenters here for criticizing her sick and evil decision.

          If she’d go after everyday Americans for exercising their First Amendment rights, why not participate in railroading somebody she thinks is a drug dealer? For all we know, she knew everything all along!

          P.S. My real name is Ken Shultz

          K-E-N S-H-U-L-T-Z

  12. When I read this, I just cringe. You know this was how OJ got off, right? I was on ship when most of that was happening, but we got back in time for the trial and when the jury acquitted him, I wasn’t surprised. Everyone (white) I knew freaked out and my response was, “Meh. Furman gets on the stand and gets impeached as a racist and a liar and he’s the lead guy in the investigation. All they had to do now as give the jury some hinky evidence handling and that case has reasonable doubt for black jurors who’ve likely seen police racism up close and personal in LA. Stars are also notoriously hard to convict.” Voila!

    But if you’re Ross Ulbricht, and you’re a (white) tech geek, and you’ve been setting up the place where people can turn another troublesome thing – a cryptocurrency known as BitCoin – into dollars, and/or facilitate the purchase of all kinds of black market goods for that currency? You. Are. Fucked. You went into competition against the King himself, my friend. You dared to work on a completely separate economy, one that Uncle Sugar says is naughty naughty naughty for people!!
    (cont)

    1. It won’t matter – hypothetically speaking, of course – if there is evidence the cops had motive to fabricate evidence against you to make it look worse than it was, for example, like….if…suppose the cop had already signed a book or movie deal to take place after you were caught and convicted, I mean, that couldn’t possibly be motive for the agent to aggrandize the story, or to make the “bad guy” look downright evil, and thus make himself a BIG Fucking Hero (all while he was also committing extortion and a host of other felonies, of course)? I mean, no way, right? That couldn’t possibly taint the evidence against the accused?

      Ross Ulbricht was a marked man and the government spent a lot of time and effort to first shut down BitCoin, and when they lost that, they went after the exchanges.

      1. No, they were going to frame him up no matter what. And they were right that the sheep would simply bleat and the press would dutifully fulfill its role in missing the central issue, and the King’s Men would inflict the appropriate justice. Ulbricht is no saint, he’s just not someone who should be doing LWOP. This is a travesty.

        I’ve defended people charged with rape and murder and a variety of other serious felonies, LWOP is the real deal. You give that to people who are irredeemable – that’s the point. No one who knows criminal justice could seriously believe that this guy should get the death penalty. And that’s what she gave him. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool. Your comment above about “she’d give him the death penalty if she could” is slightly incorrect: she did.

        1. What is LWOP ?

          1. Life without parole. Something that King George III might have done had something not been instigated 239 years ago today. Oh. Wait.

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