(Reuters) - The lawyer for convicted Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht said Friday an ex-Secret Service agent’s expected guilty plea to stealing more than $800,000 of bitcoins during a probe of the black market website shows the investigation was corrupt.
Shaun Bridges, the former agent, has agreed to plead guilty to money laundering and obstruction of justice, according to papers filed on Wednesday in San Francisco federal court.
Bridges and a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent, Carl Force, were charged in March for stealing bitcoins during a probe of Silk Road, best known as a platform for selling illegal drugs before the government shut it down in 2013. Its creator, Ulbricht, was sentenced in May to life in prison.
Joshua Dratel, Ulbricht’s lawyer, said in a statement that Bridges’ plea deal “removes any question about the corruption that pervaded the investigation of Silk Road.”
“As a result, it undermines completely the integrity of the government’s entire investigation,” he said.
Prosecutors are requesting an Aug. 31 plea date for Bridges, who like Force belonged to a Baltimore-based federal task force investigating Silk Road.
Steven Levin, Bridge’s lawyer, said in an email his client has from the beginning regretted his actions: “His decision to plead guilty reflects his complete acceptance of responsibility and is another step toward his full rehabilitation.”
The Justice Department declined to comment Friday. But prosecutors under Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose office tried Ulbricht, have said that Bridges and Force played no role in their separate investigation of Silk Road.
Silk Road operated for more than two years, generating over $214 million in anonymous sales of drugs and other illicit goods using bitcoins, prosecutors said.
Ulbricht, 31, was convicted in February by a federal jury in Manhattan on charges including distributing drugs through the Internet and conspiring to commit computer hacking and money laundering.
Following his conviction, authorities announced charges against Force and Bridges.
Prosecutors said Bridges diverted to his personal account over $800,000 of bitcoins that he controlled during the investigation.
Force extorted $250,000 from Ulbricht and later offered to sell him information about the U.S. investigation for $100,000, according to a criminal complaint.
Force, the lead undercover agent in communication with the Dread Pirate Roberts, the alias Ulbricht allegedly used, also stole $90,000 in bitcoins that Ulbricht paid him under an officially sanctioned alias used for the probe, prosecutors said.
Force’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
The case is U.S. v. Bridges, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 15-cr-319.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Richard Chang