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    Great Moments in Shaun Bridges, a Corrupt Silk Road Investigator

    Written by

    Sarah Jeong

    Contributing Editor

    Screenshot from criminal complaint.

    On Monday Wired reported that former Silk Road investigator Shaun Bridges was arrested again while trying to flee the United States. While most of the details surrounding his re-arrest are still under seal, a government filing says that law enforcement seized two bags containing identity documents, “corporate records for offshore entities,” including one that he had created after pleading guilty in this case, a Macbook with the serial number scratched off, and bulletproof vests that were probably stolen from the Secret Service.

    Carl Mark Force IV—the other corrupt cop charged alongside Bridges—is pretty hard to beat, just name-wise. But Shaun Bridges has definitely had his moments. In June 2015, Bridges pled to corruption charges that Neal Stephenson would have never written into a novel, for fear of being too improbable.

    But prior to that, the former Secret Service agent had an illustrious career in law enforcement. He was a successful hostage negotiator before he was in the Secret Service. As a Secret Service agent, he guarded the Obamas while simultaneously working for the National Security Agency in some unspecified capacity. From the outside, he was a hero cop—so much so that Robert Ehrlich, the former governor of Maryland, wrote a letter on his behalf, asking the judge to mitigate his sentence.

    Maybe the higher you go, the further you have to fall. But really, the story of Shaun Bridges isn’t so much a Greek tragedy as it is a collection of bizarre vignettes of ballsy police misconduct, each one more ridiculous than the next.

    That time Bridges transferred $820,000 from Mt. Gox, then served warrants on Mt. Gox

    Back in May 2013, theUnited States government seized $2.1 million in accounts belonging to Mt. Gox, the world’s then-largest bitcoin exchange. Shaun Bridges put together an affidavit for the seizure warrant. He wrapped it up only two days after he had finished wiring $820,000 from Mt. Gox to “Quantum International Investments, LLC,” a company that he had registered on February 12, 2013.

    Seriously, this guy pulled all his funds out of a bitcoin exchange that he was about to help seize. While Bridges claims that he just was following orders with the seizure warrant, the US Attorney’s office in San Francisco thinks there was a more nefarious motive.

    In his sentencing hearing in December, Assistant US Attorney Kathryn Haun told the judge that the seizure had compromised a criminal investigation into Mt. Gox, and that the investigation ended up being shut down. Haun said that Bridges had compromised the criminal case against Mt. Gox on purpose, because he feared being exposed.

    Exposed? For what? you might ask. Well, let’s start with where that $820,000 came from.

    That time Bridges stole 20,000 bitcoins from the Dread Pirate Roberts, then set up a cooperating witness for the fall

    At the time, Shaun Bridges was an agent working with the Silk Road Task Force, a multi-agency effort that spanned across many jurisdictions. Their mission: to identify the Dread Pirate Roberts and take down the hidden online black market that he operated.

    In early 2013, they made a big break in the case, when law enforcement identified and apprehended Curtis Green, one of the Silk Road moderators. Green rolled over and agreed to cooperate. The moderator-turned-witness gave law enforcement his login credentials, and on January 25, he debriefed Carl Force, Shaun Bridges, and other Baltimore-based agents on how to “log into Silk Road vendor accounts and reset passwords, how to change the status of a seller to a vendor, how to reset pins.”

    Bridges left the information session in the afternoon. Then “during the afternoon and into the night, the Silk Road website suffered a series of sizeable thefts.”

    The Silk Road Task Force blamed Curtis Green. The Dread Pirate Roberts blamed Curtis Green. Poor Green was left flailing, unable to explain why this enormous theft could be traced back to his own account.

    DPR caught wind that Green was cooperating with law enforcement. Incensed by both this and the theft, he ordered a hit on his former employee.

    Fortunately for Green, the hitman turned out to be an undercover Carl Mark Force. Force and Bridges helped fake Green’s death, and then doctored proof-of-death photos to send to DPR.

    I am 90 percent sure this was a plotline in Boardwalk Empire

    That time Bridges got a cooperating witness to teach him how to launder bitcoins

    Curtis Green didn’t find out who had done him wrong until much, much later. While in hiding, he kept cooperating with the investigation, although getting the theft pinned on him had put his plea deal in jeopardy.

    Green gave a victim statement at Bridges’s sentencing, openly sobbing in court. He told the judge that he had taught Force and Bridges “how to move bitcoin, how to essentially hide it,” thinking that he was helping the investigation, since “these are the good guys.”

    That time Bridges was guarding the First Lady

    No one really knows the true extent of Bridges’s activities. Unlike Carl Force, who was often fairly sloppy in his shady dealings, Bridges was quite sophisticated. See, for example, the offshore entities discovered during his re-arrest!

    Bridges was a cryptocurrency expert. According to AUSA Haun, his involvement with digital currency cases across the country caused a “staggering” number of investigations to become tainted, and subsequently shut down. She told the judge at Bridges’s sentencing that the corrupt agent had been looking out for opportunities to serve seizure warrants and somehow profit from it.

    The prosecutor also said that bitcoins were still missing, and they weren’t sure if he had worked withother corrupt agents. The US Attorney’s Office seemed to imply that there had been a lot of weird (but not necessarily chargeable) stuff that was still unaccounted for. In other words, she was convinced that Bridges hadn’t really made a clean breast of it.

    One example she gave was a suspicious text conversation between Bridges and an unnamed IRS agent—who was not charged in this case—in which the two talked about how much money they were making on the market (presumably, the digital currency market) even as Bridges boasted about guarding Mrs. Obama at that very moment.

    That time Bridges tried to stealthily slip his computer onto a pile of laptops that IT was wiping

    It took a while for anyone to catch on to what Bridges was doing, and he may have never gotten caught if Force’s unrelated slip-ups hadn’t drawn attention to Bridges’s own activities. In May 2014, after some really weird interactions with Carl Force, bitcoin exchange Bitstamp reported him to his superiors.

    On March 18, 2015, Bridges was suspended—upon which he pulled a “You can’t suspend me! Actually, I resign!”

    But before he did that, the former agent asked his supervisor “if he could access his Dell laptop computer to copy electronic receipts of personal items he had purchased from internet merchants.” When his supervisor glanced over his shoulder, the supervisor realized Bridges wasn’t copying receipts—he was copying a folder named “Bitstamp.” The supervisor put a stop to that right away.

    Then Bridges, who had been told to leave his work computers in the evidence vault, sneakily slipped one of the laptops into “a cabinet directly above an area that USSS Baltimore personnel use as a ‘wipe’ station.” It’s not clear whether Baltimore Secret Service IT actually wiped that laptop.

    That time Bridges hurriedly married his girlfriend right before she was scheduled to testify in his own grand jury investigation

    This story came out during Bridges’s sentencing hearing. While the grand jury investigation was proceeding against Force and Bridges, Bridges’s then-girlfriend Ariana Esposito, had been called to testify. Esposito asked for a week’s reprieve due to her schedule. It was granted.

    That very weekend, Esposito and Bridges got married. Esposito invoked spousal immunity, and never testified in the case against her husband.

    I am 90 percent sure this was a plotline in Boardwalk Empire?

    According to Bridges, they had married so that the former agent could have health insurance.


    In December 2015, Bridges was sentenced to five years and eleven months in prison. His re-arrest means that there may be mindboggling Shaun Bridges stories yet to come.