Technology

Silk Road: US agent jailed over bitcoin theft

bitcoin Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Shaun Bridges stole $820,000 (£546,000) of the online currency, bitcoin

A former US Secret Service agent has been jailed for six years for stealing electronic currency while investigating the Silk Road online marketplace, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Shaun Bridges took $820,000 (£546,000) in bitcoin after accessing Silk Road.

He admitted money laundering and obstruction charges in August.

US District Judge Richard Seeborg said Bridges' behaviour was a "shocking and reprehensible abandonment of his public duty".

Passing sentence on Monday, the judge said "This, to me, is an extremely serious crime consisting of the betrayal of public trust by a federal law enforcement agent," the AP reported.

"And from everything I see, it was motivated entirely by greed."

As a member of the US Secret Service, Bridges was part of a task force investigating the Silk Road marketplace, which was used by some to trade illegal items. It was closed in 2013 following raids by the FBI and other agencies.

'Illustrious career'

Having gained access to the online bazaar, Bridges stole the online currency and tried to pin it on a witness who was cooperating with the investigation, prompting Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht to take out hits on the witness' life, prosecutors said at Monday's hearing.

The judge said it was "inexcusable" for a federal agent to put a cooperating witness at risk in that way. Bridges told the judge before his sentencing that he had accepted responsibility for his crime and had not spent any of the money he took.

"I obviously have lost a lot, a very illustrious career," he said. His lawyer sought a three-year sentence, but the judge gave him a jail term of five years and 11 months, the AP reported.

Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison in May after he was convicted over his operation of the website for nearly three years from 2011 until his 2013 arrest.

Prosecutors said he collected $18m in bitcoin through commissions on tens of thousands of drug sales while operating the site using the alias, "Dread Pirate Roberts," an apparent reference to a main character in "The Princess Bride," the 1987 comedy film based on a novel of the same name.

A Drug Enforcement Administration agent on the Silk Road task force, Carl Force, was charged separately with selling information about the investigation and pleaded guilty to extortion and other charges. He was sentenced to six years in prison in October.

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