Posted by: Allen Hoffmann, JD
April 16, 2015
Carl Mark Force IV (I’ve used and seen some pseudonyms in my time, but god damn, that’s a real name…) was the lead DEA undercover on the Baltimore taskforce and assumed various approved undercover identities on Silk Road – the only one he was approved to use was ‘Nob’, a persona of a U.S. based drug smuggler. Just the sort of thing an infiltration operation would be attempting to pull, as opposed to the “back investigating” that the New York taskforce was playing. (Sidebar – that’s not to say other members of the Baltimore taskforce weren’t authorized to use other aliases).
And its from here the misconduct starts…. For starters, the Government alleges at page 3 that Force took cash straight out of the undercover account he was authorized to be using, which we later learn was part of a sophisticated deception wherein a non existent federal employee named Kevin leaked some supposed intelligence information to DPR via Nob. DPR was meant to pay Nob 525 BTC for this – officially, Force states that no such payment was made. That’s contradicted by the sole unencrypted correspondence ever sent by DPR to Nob, indicating that he had infact paid that amount, and mysteriously, exactly that amount of BTC ends up being traced via the blockchain as eventually transferred to a wallet linked to Force… but it certainly doesn’t end there.
Encrypted conversations between Force and DPR are not recoverable, evidence is not documented.
As I’ve said before, one does not wake up one morning and become a cop, or make detective. Force, apparently a meticulous DEA agent of 15 years standing, on 150k a year, would’ve been well aware of the evidentiary standards needed in a case such as that of the Silk Road investigation, to secure a conviction – and yet, the complaint makes clear that correspondence logged by Force between himself and DPR does not gel with the information garnered from Ross Ulbricht’s seized laptop; that is to say, there has been correspondence recovered between DPR and Force acting in his UC capacity which Force conveniently forgot to memorialize in his evidence logs. Not only that, but Force himself instructed DPR to use PGP in their correspondence with such gusto that he would chide DPR to use PGP when he one day sent a message in the clear, and then apparently neglected to turn over the PGP keys and passwords to other communications – this is despite being reminded repeatedly by prosecutors of the need to memorialize his evidence in a contemporaneous fashion. The complaint goes so far as to speculate that this course of action was intended to undermine the Baltimore Taskforce’s operation as a whole; what is beyond speculation, however, is that Force did not want anyone else reading what he and DPR said to each other. There is simply no other explanation.
Force as an entrepreneur
Force obviously had his eyes on better things than what he was doing at the time, gunning for a role in the burgeoning market that he was investigating. When he wasn’t busy with busting people/stealing cash, Force was apparently also pimping for a company called CoinMKT after having invested about $110k in them and being listed in their literature. He offered to use his connections and access to LE databases to run “compliance” checks on clients via criminal record databases held by federal LE [itself highly illegal], got himself listed as their compliance officer in banking documents [again, whilst still a serving DEA agent]. In this capacity, after looking into what, at first glance, looked like a suspicious transaction with CoinMKT, Force went about abusing LE intelligence to freeze a man’s accounts worth just under $300k and transfer the money to himself at Bitstamp. A couple of days later, Engedi, LLC, his holding/BTC speculation company, is founded (sidebar – you can still see the website at http://cole-40477.logogarden.com/, and twitter at https://twitter.com/engediinc – for now) The IRS has email correspondence between all involved, and it’s the foundation for their ‘conflict of interest’ allegation; here we have a veteran drug investigator, digging into crypto currencies, investing in them at the same time,
Force as a forger
But oh no, it keeps going; busy little Force also had the time to forge subpoenas using his supervisor’s signature in an effort to remove a hold from his personal account at another platform – he’d already tried sending them a scan of his DEA badge and credentials. When both flashing his tin and the fabricated subpoena didn’t cut it, Force actually set about trying to seize the platform’s bank accounts. Where did this guy find the hours in the day? That’s right about where the problems seem to seriously start for him – the platform, Venmo, got in touch with his supervisors.
Selling LE intelligence to DPR – then blackmailing him.
Oh, and on top of all of that, he was also selling (potentially spurious, or perhaps, genuine) intel to DPR; the Government alleges that Force created an unauthorized pseudonym, under the name “French Maid” (sidebar – what a creep) bullshitted DPR about who he was, but did at one point call himself Carl (the majority of the correspondence, however, is PGP encrypted), presumably pretending to be a fed from another agency, and to sell info to DPR about the ongoing investigation – specifically, that Mark Karpeles of Mt. Gox fame had a potential name on DPR for the Baltimore taskforce. The fact Karpeles just happened to be someone with whom the Baltimore taskforce was attempting to speak at this particular time is damning not just in terms of the temporal proximity, but also because of the fact that so few people in LE (specifically, only those very closely affiliated with the Baltimore taskforce) had knowledge of Karpeles’ proposed sitdown. DPR parted with $100k for this info… which, like that other 525 BTC mentioned earlier, somehow ends up in Force’s account, relatively easily traced via the blockchain.
This is apparently not enough for Force, so when the Baltimore taskforce gets hold of an early suspect’s name for DPR, which is obviously some highly protected information, after one of the pretend murders staged by the taskforce, he attempts to blackmail DPR using the name “Death from Above”. The correspondence is, once again, recovered thanks to the server image made by NY, but this time, the conversation is not encrypted, and it shows Death from Above in full detail setting out the suspect’s name, personal details and citizenship information, apparently pissed at the (as we know, staged) murder of one “C.G.” [again, known to be Silk Road admin “Flush”, aka Curtis Green]. How do we know Death from Above is actually Force? He brilliantly managed to leave recording software on his DEA computer running while logged in using this identity.
Let this sink in for a minute – Force wants to blackmail DPR about ordering a fake murder of Curtis Green, which his team in fact orchestrated, set in train by a theft committed by his co conspirator, for which Green was blamed.
Force working with Shaun Bridges, and asking the guy they ripped off how to launder the proceeds
We’ve not heard a great deal about Shaun Bridges from the USSS at this stage, so let’s get it up to speed; its alleged in the complaint that Shaun Bridges, also on the Baltimore taskforce with Force, drained the accounts of several Silk Road vendors. He then seeks assistance from Force to ask DPR, in his capacity as Nob, for information on how to convert the stolen BTC into cash, and liaises with Force in relation to BTC pricing. He sets up Quantum International Investments, LLC, and opens a bank account, into which he siphons $820K from Mt. Gox – about, oh, two whole days before his own affidavit seizes $2.1 Million from Mt. Gox, and about all of two weeks after the Silk Road thefts. Legit, right? Yep, doesn’t seem questionable to me either.
Force ready to flee.
When Force was turned over in late March, he had a passport, $5k in blank money orders, and an unregistered, loaded 9mm in his car, as per the petition to keep him in custody. Oh, and he had developed an exit plan document for escaping the US which listed a specific and feasible route from the U.S., to the Dominican Republic, to Panama, Morocco and ending up in Algeria. Whether that was something he threw together during the investigation or something he had worked up for his own use, who knows. But as a DEA agent with 15 years experience, sourcing a new gun and fleeing the country would most likely not challenge him too much. So its probably best he’s in custody.