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Bitcoin Crime

Secret Service Agent Pleads Guilty In Bitcoin Theft 82

An anonymous reader writes: A former Secret Service agent has pleaded guilty to charges related to the theft of $800,000 worth of bitcoins during a high-profile investigation into the online drug marketplace Silk Road. Reuters reports: "Shaun Bridges, 33, appeared in federal court in San Francisco and admitted to money laundering and obstruction of justice....In court on Monday, Bridges admitted his theft made Ulbricht believe that another individual was stealing from Silk Road and helped lead Ulbricht to try to hire someone to kill that person."
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Secret Service Agent Pleads Guilty In Bitcoin Theft

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  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cederic ( 9623 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @05:55AM (#50434667) Journal

    It's nice to see justice working both ways, almost gives you faith in the process.

    • It's still not enough. He proved that, with just a little bit of governance (Silk Road), the drug market can be tamed. Thus, this DEA set up. They knew that without some real solid charges it wasn't good enough. Even if the whole "attempted murder" bullshit was thrown out he's still fucked. If he had gotten "big enough" to be noticed the cartel's would have taken him out anyway.
      • To my knowledge he has not yet been tried for the attempted murder bit. And I don't know if they're going to bother, given he's already in jail for life.

        So, your entire premise is false. Without the "attempted murder bullshit", the drug and money laundering charges were solid enough to put him away.

        • Not in the court of public perception. Without the attempted murder bullshit the silk road story remains one of consenting adults empowering other adults to make choices with regard to their own persons that no person including government persons has the moral authority to deny them.
          • Not in the court of public perception. Without the attempted murder bullshit the silk road story remains one of consenting adults empowering other adults to make choices with regard to their own persons that no person including government persons has the moral authority to deny them.

            In the court of normal public perception making money by breaking the law means you're a criminal and deserving of punishment, regardless of whether you did it via the internet or not.

            If drug laws are wrong, change the drug laws.

            • If by normal you mean the sort of opinions that are allowed on the news you are right. If by normal you mean what most of the population thinks... not so much.

              Anything that serves as a vehicle to enable the masses to bypass our wealthy elite controlled government and police state is a good thing.

              "If drug laws are wrong, change the drug laws."

              Right, let me just dial up my lobbying group and have a rider put in to the latest save the puppies bill that is primarily targeted at shortening the length of time pou
    • by msauve ( 701917 )

      It's nice to see justice working both ways, almost gives you faith in the process.

      Well, we'll just have to wait and see about that. - "Sentencing for Bridges was scheduled for December."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @06:22AM (#50434729)
    That Shaun Bridges was even charged at all is amazing. He's a government employee, and in most of the world it's very rare for government employees to be charged with a crimes because fellow government employees refuse to prosecute them. Thank your lucky stars, America, you are not like Australia where the press reports alleged corruption, the police ignore it, and it piles up and up and up: https://archive.is/KUTAy#cases [archive.is]
    • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @07:16AM (#50434829)

      > He's a government employee, a

      _Former_ government employee. The courts don't provide anywhere near as much lenience for former employees as for active employees of law enforcement agencies.

      And if you are convinced that the US government and its courts will not turn a blind eye to criminal acts by federal employees, please review the revelations about NSA criminal and unconstitutional activities published by Edward Snowden for a recent striking example. www.wikileaks.com is filled with criminal activity by many governments: the USA is not immune. Turning a blind eye to colleague abuses is a common problem.

      • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @07:39AM (#50434885) Journal

        And if you are convinced that the US government and its courts will not turn a blind eye to criminal acts by federal employees, please review the revelations about NSA criminal and unconstitutional activities published by Edward Snowden for a recent striking example.

        Not just federal employees. We see local cops getting away with murder a couple of times a week it seems.

        • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @07:56AM (#50434937)

          It's a big country: there are a _lot_ of local police doing good work, and it's hard, usually dull, sometimes quite dangerous work. The local officers with their boots on the ground doing the real day-to-day work are worth their weight in BitCoins.

          But yes, corruption and brutal enforcement with the public as "the enemy" are terrible, easy habits to fall into for individuals and for whole departments. Some corruption is inherent in _having_ a culture large enough to require law enforcement. It's why it's so important that police, prosecution, courts, and lawmakers are kept at odds, so they can and do limit each other's power.

          • It's a big country: there are a _lot_ of local police doing good work, and it's hard, usually dull, sometimes quite dangerous work.

            It's a big country: there are a _lot_ of federal employees doing good work, and it's hard, usually dull, sometimes quite dangerous work.

            My point is that the local cop on the street is every bit as much a government bureaucrat as some FDA regulator in Washington. A government agent is a government agent, and the "small government/law & order" types seldom are willing to admi

          • by crtreece ( 59298 )

            there are a _lot_ of local police doing good work

            Until that work includes investigating and arresting their corrupt co-workers, I'll consider them part of the problem and not a part of the solution. A cop that doesn't enforce the laws broken by other cops is an accomplice, not a "good cop"

            sometimes quite dangerous work.

            More like "mostly NOT quite dangerous". LEO doesn't even make the top 10 in most deadly professions. That is reserved for jobs like logging, fisherman, construction trades, mining, etc. Last year there were 117 fatalities out of 900K+ sworn LEOs in the US. Of those, 49

            • by e r ( 2847683 )

              Courts (especially where the judges are elected) and lawmakers have to be perceived as being "tough on crime", else the right-wing law-and-order types will have a fit.

              I think you're referring to the reality where soccer moms have conniption fits if a criminal who should have been in jail rapes and murders their daughter. They don't want to hear about statistics or about how rare it is when it's their daughter and neither would I and neither would you.

              Oh, and there's also the infamous school shootings. Nobody, on /. at least, points out how insanely unlikely it is to be caught up in a school shooting, or about how few people are actually killed, or about how it could ha

            • > More like "mostly NOT quite dangerous". LEO doesn't even make the top 10 in most deadly professions.

              I'm afraid I've had this discussion before, on Slashdot. Please note that I did not say "deadly". I said "dangerous". And not being on the top 10 most fatal list does not mean a profession is safe, anymore than not being on the New York Times bestseller list means a novel is bad. Fatalities among police are continuing to drop, in the last few decades, partly due to better training, better equipment for

              • by crtreece ( 59298 )

                I said "dangerous"

                Fair enough. The only point that I'm trying to make is that the job is less dangerous than a lot of LEO try to make it sound. I also understand that some area of patrol are more dangerous than others. Back to what I was really trying to reply to, whatever danger is inherent in the job, it does not justify the blue wall of silence and the inability of "good" officers to police the bad ones. The watchers seem to be unwilling and unable to watch over themselves, are resistant to someone else watching over

          • Most police break the law on a daily basis. Maybe not murder but they certainly aren't willing to hold themselves to the same technical the law is the law standard as they hold others.
        • by l0n3s0m3phr34k ( 2613107 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @08:02AM (#50434975)
          random murder of the perps is OK, stealing money that the Feds planned on seizing isn't. This is America, and he "stole" a pretty decent amount.
    • That Shaun Bridges was even charged at all is amazing. He's a government employee, and in most of the world it's very rare for government employees to be charged with a crimes because fellow government employees refuse to prosecute them. Thank your lucky stars, America, you are not like Australia where the press reports alleged corruption, the police ignore it, and it piles up and up and up: https://archive.is/KUTAy#cases [archive.is]

      Nah, it's pretty much the same in America.

      The difference in this case is the nature of the crime and the victim chosen. No, not Ulbricht. The victim was the federal government, because they were going to seize that money anyway. You steal from the government, or attack the government in any way, they're going to drop the hammer on you. If your victim is an individual, well, it depends in large part on the socioeconomic status of that individual. A government employee can get prosecuted for killing a poor black man, for example, but it's rare. If you're a government agency and your victim is the entire nation, you're almost certainly going to get away with it. At most you'll be told to stop, but no one will be going to jail... well, except the guy who ratted the agency out. There's a good chance he'll go to jail, if he can be caught.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Basic lesson in life: Don't steal. The government hates competition.

  • Its just a load of data. Illegal copying sure, but stealing?

    • by Necroloth ( 1512791 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @07:13AM (#50434823)
      bank accounts are just data too
    • Since patent and copyright violations, and even theft of trade secrets can be prosecuted as theft, yes, it could certainly be considered theft. Whether Bitcoins are considered currency or not, they're considered valuable trade goods by the owners of the Bitcoins, and they have a pretty clear market value. The extortion and obstruction of justice engaged in by this agent hopefully make it even easier to prosecute.

    • It's actually considered a "commodity" per the IRS for tax purposes. This data has a specific value, only valid for that particular combination of bits. Technically, these bitcoins might even be worth "more" or "less" depending on the market and their actual brands. There are at least 200 different "bitcoin" "currencies".
  • At what point (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @07:25AM (#50434849)

    Does the "attempted murder" thing become just a case of entrapment? We have this admission here and the knowledge that the guy who planted the idea in Ulbricht's head and helped coax him down that road was a DEA agent.

    In general, police should not allowed to do evil that good may come of it. One of the things that bothers me about these cases is that when the police merely create the appearance of evil, they're still coarsening society. When people think evil abounds, it increases their own temptations. That applies from here, to the knowledge that there are tons of cops online posing as underage girls to try to capture would-be lawbreakers there as well. Merely posing as an enabler of crime creates some serious moral hazards.

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      Does the "attempted murder" thing become just a case of entrapment? We have this admission here and the knowledge that the guy who planted the idea in Ulbricht's head and helped coax him down that road was a DEA agent.

      In general, police should not allowed to do evil that good may come of it. One of the things that bothers me about these cases is that when the police merely create the appearance of evil, they're still coarsening society. When people think evil abounds, it increases their own temptations. That applies from here, to the knowledge that there are tons of cops online posing as underage girls to try to capture would-be lawbreakers there as well. Merely posing as an enabler of crime creates some serious moral hazards.

      If the USSS agent had taken the bitcoins under orders or as part of the investigation then it could be a case of entrapment. But since he stole the bitcoins for personal use (or not in an official, sanctioned capacity) it's plain simple theft.

      • I think they are referring to the whole "murder for hire" setup, not this theft.
      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        it's plain simple theft.

        And murder committed in the comission of another crime is treated as aggravated murder. Even if you didn't pull the trigger but only drove the getaway car, if the bank guard got killed, you can be found guilty.

        The theft is the aggravating offense. Bridges caused someone to attempt murder. So he should be charged with aggravated attempted murder.

    • "You'd like to think that, wouldn't you?" Me too, and in an ideal world we'd be right. But it seems the Feds employ this methodology all the time, including the FBI and CIA. This whole trap was just to destroy Silk Road the only way they knew.
    • "When people think evil abounds, it increases their own temptations."

      'Evil' does abound but part of being human is to be able to control one's own animal urges regardless of temptation.

      "That applies from here, to the knowledge that there are tons of cops online posing as underage girls to try to capture would-be lawbreakers there as well."

      There are probably 'tons' more real underage girls on the net than there are cops posing as underage girls so the police are not 'creating the appearance of evil'.

    • Why do people think that any time law enforcement is within shouting distance it is entrapment?

      What would a normal person do if someone stole $800,000 from them? Call the cops. What did DPR do? Solicit a hitman. That's not entrapment, that is a criminal that is already disposed to paying to have people killed..

  • by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @08:08AM (#50434993)
    The war on drugs:

    Gangs..
    Attempted murder
    death
    lives ruined
    crappy black market substitutes
    corruption
    graft
    and a smug sense of superiority...

    • Replace "The war on drugs" with "prohibition".

      Won't we ever learn?

  • Anybody with the inside scoop on exactly how he was caught, given that bitcoin is supposed to be anonymous?

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      The wallets can be anonymous. But it's a simple matter to trace Bitcoin through a series of wallets. Once the real owner of one of these is identified, one can trace certain transactions back the other way.

      For Bitcoin to be of any use, eventually it will be spent on actual goods. And these can be traced. Very few people have the discipline to maintain multiple completely separate lives.

  • This secret service agent and a DEA agent were stealing BTC from the silk road. Why was this evidence not allowed to be presented at trial? These guys had admin access to the SR servers and needed a fall guy....
  • I've been saying it for years. Creating laws against possession and distribution of anything corrupts the entire legal system. The War on Drugs creates the same patterns of crime that Prohibition created. Thanks for proving me right, Shaun...
    • Creating laws against possession and distribution of anything corrupts the entire legal system

      Chemical weapons? Land mines? Nuclear bombs?

  • If I read this right, it appears that his theft was the impetus for Ulbricht trying to hire a hit to kill someone.

    I'm not sure if there's some follow-on charge that could be applied there, but it almost seems like there should be because if Bridges hadn't stolen the bitcoin, Ulbricht wouldn't have wanted to kill someone for the theft.

  • Well here is the way out of the economic doldrums. The government just needs to hire a fake terrorist, a fake sex worker and a fake drug dealer to stand outside your door every morning. They spam you with various goodies and opportunities. If you turn them down, you don't get a tax credit but you don't go to jail either. If you do take them up on it, everyone involved gets "statistical accomplishments" and it keeps the lawyers busy!

    Synthetic decision tree spam (i.e. entrapment, stings) are pernicious and li

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