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Silk Road DEA agent ordered held pending trial

Former DEA agent charged in Silk Road case is ordered held pending trial

A federal judge on Thursday ordered a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent charged with stealing money while investigating an online drug marketplace to be detained pending trial.

Prosecutors said Carl Mark Force IV's law enforcement training and knowledge of illicit "deep web" sites for his undercover work investigating the Silk Road operation made him a potential danger to the community.

"He could certainly procure additional identities and/or weapons from any number of successor sites that have replaced Silk Road or Silk Road 2.0," prosecutors told Magistrate Judge Timothy Sullivan in a written motion.

Force's attorney, Ivan J. Bates, said in an interview that the former agent has been cooperating with authorities since the investigation into his conduct was revealed to him in March 2014.

Force has been charged along with a former Secret Service agent, Shaun W. Bridges, with money laundering and wire fraud for allegedly diverting digital currency known as bitcoins from the investigation into their personal accounts. Before the charges, authorities had said their work was crucial to learning the identity of Silk Road administrator Ross William Ulbricht.

Bridges is not being detained.

Ulbricht was convicted in New York federal court earlier this year of charges including drug trafficking and money laundering, and is awaiting sentencing.

Ulbricht's attorney says the allegations against the Baltimore investigators bolster his client's motion for a new trial because they raise questions about who had access to the site and its controls.

Bates accused the government of "keeping [Force] around just long enough to get [Ulbricht], and once they accomplished that goal, he became expendable and they threw him to the side."

In Maryland, Ulbricht is facing charges that he solicited the murder of a Silk Road administrator who he believed had stolen from the site. In the criminal complaint unsealed this week, authorities say they now believe that Bridges committed the theft, and Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said his office is reviewing whether the Ulbricht case in Maryland should go forward.

In arguing that Force be detained, prosecutors said that when he was arrested, authorities found a handgun, passport and money orders in his vehicle. Prosecutors referred to it as a "go bag," which would enable him to flee the country.

They also pointed to a document Force created that detailed steps to leave the country undetected, with a final destination of Algeria. A copy of the plan shows it was sent to supervisors during the Silk Road investigation, but prosecutors said it was "evidence that Force has thought about these issues and is familiar with ways of leaving the U.S. undetected."

Bates said that using Force's authorized undercover work and training against him should "send a chilling effect" to law enforcement officers.

jfenton@baltsun.com

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