The Open Ledger has reviewed the full affidavit that alleges the sweeping conspiracy of DEA agent Carl M. Force to extort several entities involved in the Silk Road investigation. A number of themes emerge from the document. The first being the nefarious audacity of Carl M. Force to commit felonies against the very people he was investigating with one of the most severe cases of blockhead that we’ve seen.
The surprise star and protagonist of the affidavit is the author, Special Agent Tigran Gambaryan of the IRS Special Investigations unit based in California. Since the filing, he has been garnering “mad props” from posters on Reddit and other cryptocurrency forums. The text of the affidavit confirms, Special Agent Gambaryan is a bad ass Bitcoiner who’s fluency in crypto jargon would impress Andreas Antonopoulos.
Here’s an excerpt from an early section entitled, Bitcoin Background:
“Bitcoin is a form of decentralized, convertible virtual currency that exists through the use of an online, decentralized ledger system. While Bitcoin mainly exists as an internet-based form of currency it is possible to ‘print out’ the necessary information and exchange Bitcoin via physical medium.”
Ok, not bad. But that could have been easily lifted from any Bitcoin 101 blog. More:
“Digital currencies, including Bitcoin, have many known legitimate uses. However, much like cash, bitcoins can be used to facilitate illicit transactions and to launder criminal proceeds, given the ease with which they can be used to move money anonymously. As is demonstrated herein, however, in some circumstances bitcoin payments may be traced to accounts at traditional financial institutions using the block chain.”
Hmmm…this guy is sounding legit. After uncovering an unencrypted message that Ulrich (administrator of the Silk Road) sent to Agent Force confirming the deposit of 525 bitcoins, Gambaryan traced the payments through the block chain, illustrating his casework in an exhibit attached to the affidavit:
This is Gambaryan’s way of saying, don’t fuck around in the blockchain. He also has other warnings for evildoers. First some background. “Nob” was Agent Force’s authorized DEA handle for his investigation into the Silk Road. “French Maid” was an unauthorized handle, which he used to extort bitcoin from Ulrich into his own personal accounts. Tying this motley crew of handles to Force is vital to the case against him. In perhaps the most entertaining and well-wrought passage in the document, Agent Gambaryan takes Force to task for his noob use of PGP encryption:
“There are also additional similarities between FORCE’s and FRENCH MAID’s PGP patterns. Both Nob and French Maid left certain default settings on their PGP software. For one thing, both French Maid and Force left a “tag” that appeared on every message authroed from their PGP key revealing the brand and version of PGP software they were using. This is akin to, for example, leaving the phrase “sent from my iPhone” on the bottom of one’s emails but with greater detail: it would be akin to leaving a phrase like “sent from my iPhone 6 IOS 8.0.1.” Leaving this “tag” on typically reveals that one is dealing with a fairly inexperienced user of PGP, because someone that regularly uses PGP to communicate would normally have changed their settings to omit this tag. After all, the entire point behind PGP software is anonymity, so if a user leaves the brand, version, bit, and release date of software on a message this is revealing something about the sender and undermines the goal of remaining 100% anonymous. One of the first things many PGP forums or regular users of PGP software instruct is that a user disable this feature. Moreover, PGP offers choices of 1024, 2048, 3072 or 4096 bit encryption keys, with the higher keys giving greater protection. Many of the regular PGP users that were active on the Silk Road chose the 4096 bit keys because of the additional protection the larger key provided. Here both Nob and French Maid used the 2048 bit default encryption key.”
If you really want to get the full picture of Agent Gambaryan’s mastery, you should read the affidavit itself. It beats any recent sci-fi thriller on Amazon and its author was paid with tax dollars.