Normally, undercover DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agents are careful not to get too close to the crimes that they are attempting to bring to light. While undercover, however, the lead investigator in the Silk Road drug case, in which bitcoins were exchanged for drugs, has pled guilty to attempting to profit from his involvement with the case. Prosecutors claim that last year, when the Silk Road site was gaining weight in the public eye, this individual agent sold his story to the movie company 20th Century Fox.
Californians will remember that the case involved a man named Ross Ulbricht, calling himself the ‘Dread Pirate Roberts,’ taken from the film “The Princess Bride.” If it had been allowed to go through, he could have made as much as $240,000. Of course, he signed the contract with the movie moguls without permission from the DEA, thus landing himself in the midst of a legal battle over such potential profits. More than this, he used his influence as an undercover agent to steal approximately $500,000 from the Dread Pirate Roberts and others. He stands accused of federal extortion.
18 U.S. Code, Chapter 41 addresses extortion and threats, generally. Although the maximum possible federal sentence in typical cases such as these is about 20 years for each count, it is likely that the DEA agent will spend no more than 7 years in a federal prison facility. What the public finds more disturbing is that these crimes were perpetrated by a member of law enforcement, not a hardened criminal.