After pleading guilty to charges related to the theft of bitcoin during an investigation into the illegal Silk Road marketplace, former Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges was sentenced to 71 months in a federal prison for his actions. While Bridges was investigating Silk Road with former DEA agent Carl M. Force (also complicit in the theft), Bridges used his insider knowledge and administrator access to steal as much as 20,000 bitcoin from Silk Road customers.
Specifically, Bridges locked drug dealers out of their accounts on Silk Road before transferring bitcoin in their accounts to his Mt. Gox account. At the time of the theft, the bitcoin was worth roughly $300,000.
If Bridges hadn’t been caught, 20,000 bitcoin would be worth roughly 7.8 million dollars in U.S. currency at today’s exchange rates. Of course, that’s assuming Bridges would have moved the bitcoin out of Mt. Gox before the exchange went bankrupt during early 2014.
Speaking about the crime, US District Judge Richard Seeborg said “This, to me, is an extremely serious crime consisting of the betrayal of public trust from a public official. From what I can see, it was motivated by greed. No departure or variance is warranted in this case. I seldom find myself in the position of imposing a high-end sentence, but I find this is warranted in this case.”
Judge Richard Seeborg is the same judge that sentenced former DEA agent Carl M. Force earlier this year. Force received a slightly longer sentence, 78 months, and was ordered to pay $340,000 in restitution to victims of the theft. Similarly, Bridges was ordered to pay roughly half a million in restitution. That money is being pulled from a retirement account, a trust containing all the funds Bridges stole and a savings account.
Reading a statement to the court prior to his sentencing, Bridges said “I am very proud of my past at least before this, before this moment. I’ve lost a lot. I’ve accepted responsibility. I owe all this money though I never spent a penny of it. I have lived with this burden for two years. I could never spend any of it. I want it to be clear that I accept full responsibility. My wife has lost everything, she went to college to go to law enforcement and now she has lost it all. I just wanted to apologize to everybody.”
At the time, Bridges’ wife, Ariana Esposito, had recently graduated the Maryland State Trooper academy. While she had a job offer to become a Maryland State Trooper, it was revoked after Esposito used marital privilege to avoid being forced to testify against her husband. Speaking to the court during the sentencing phase, Esposito said “He shall and will pay a heavy price, as he has already lost everything.”
This sentence only continues a long string of trials related to the Silk Road marketplace. Prior to the sentencing of Bridges and Force, Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole during mid-2015. Ulbricht is currently appealing both his conviction and sentencing. Interestingly, the FBI just announced the arrest of Canadian Roger Thomas Clark, allegedly a key adviser to Ulbricht. Clark faces up to 30 years in prison for charges related to narcotics conspiracy and money laundering.