If you spend all your time studying criminals, you tend to learn a thing or two about being a criminal.
This week, the Justice Department charged two federal agents with fraud for enriching themselves while conducting an investigation of the online drug marketplace Silk Road. Prosecutors filed a motion in Maryland Thursday to justify the detention of one of them, Carl Mark Force IV, a DEA agent of 15 years, claiming that he is a flight risk. When he was arrested at home in Baltimore Friday, he had “what could only be described as a ‘go bag’ containing an unlicensed and fully loaded 9mm Taurus handgun, extra ammunition, his passport, and $5,000 of blank money orders, which could be converted into cash at any time.” Force was apparently ready for a raid, or a zombie attack. There were four other handguns “positioned throughout the house in easily accessible locations,” 650 rounds of ammunition, and an unloaded shotgun.
Force, 46, is married and has three minor children. Despite the nuclear family bonds, the government is worried that he could disappear if not kept under lock and key. And if he did, he would be hard to track down, say prosecutors, because he is a long time DEA Special Agent “intimately familiar with the methods the government uses to conduct physical and electronic surveillance and to trace financial assets.” Unfortunately for Force, that knowledge was not extensive enough to evade the charges currently brought against him; one of the Bitcoin exchanges he used, Bitstamp in Slovenia, reported his activity to authorities as suspicious, which led to the investigation into his activities, according to the government’s initial complaint.
Plus, Force knows how to craft a good escape plan, say prosecutors. He had already created one for fleeing to Algeria; titled “el plan,” he created it for Silk Road operator Dread Pirate Roberts, a.k.a. Ross Ulbricht, as a part of his undercover work, according to the motion. He also offered to get DPR fake driver’s licenses. “It is evidence that Force has thought about these issues and is familiar with ways of leaving the U.S. undetected,” according to the motion.
Force had mailed “el plan” to his superiors at the DEA; it was an all-cash trip from the docks of Baltimore to the DR to Panama to Morocco to “Algiers, Alegeria” [sic]. Prosecutors included the escape plan as an attachment on the motion:
According to prosecutors, Force has a history of creating aliases that precedes his work as an undercover agent with the DEA. During his background investigation before he joined the DEA, he reported an alias of “Shannon S. Curran.” In addition to official aliases he created for the Silk Road investigation, he created aliases he didn’t report to the DEA including “French Maid,” which he allegedly used to sell information to the suspect he was investigating, and “Eladio Guzman,” which he allegedly used to try to cash out $200,000 at a European Bitcoin exchange.
Apparently, the government hasn’t been able to track down all of Force’s money. According to the motion, Force, who made a $150,000 annual salary with the DEA, wired “approximately $235,000 to an account in Panama, which was subsequently transferred to a digital currency exchange company believed to be operating out of Eastern Europe and/or the former Soviet Union.” The government doesn’t name the exchange but says it’s known to be “noncompliant with U.S. laws and unresponsive to legal process from the U.S. authorities.”
Beyond alleged access to hundreds of thousands of dollars, Force knows the dark arts of the Dark Web, according to prosecutors, thanks to all of his government training in how to hang undercover with online criminal suspects. “Force has a familiarity with the so-called ‘dark net’ sites and the ‘Deep Web’ and is familiar with techniques as to how to browse the internet and remain undetected,” according to the motion. Prosecutors say he would be able to buy fake identities and weapons from the Silk Road’s successors, or “from the streets of Baltimore.”
Force’s attorney of record, Ivan Bates, could not be reached to comment on the government’s motion. He told the Baltimore Sun that the government’s using Force’s undercover work and training against him should “send a chilling effect” to others in law enforcement.