Nick Lotito & Seth Kirschenbaum

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Two federal agents face federal charges for actions on Silk Road

With the invention of the Internet, it truly became a small world. The internet has made it possible for people to do business with others as far away as the other side of the world. As with traditional business, it also created a new vehicle for criminal activities deemed illegal by our federal government. Law enforcement efforts have resulted in civil as well as criminal litigation and resulted in the shutdown of sites like Pirate Bay in 2014 and Silk Road in 2013.

Some believe that the Internet creates a level of anonymity, making it easier for people to conduct illegal activities. In some instances, law enforcement agents have used such anonymity in undercover criminal investigations, leading to a variety of arrests and criminal charges. The thought behind these investigations is to "catch" people while they are doing illegal things and hold them accountable for their actions.

But recently it was investigators who found themselves facing criminal charges for allegedly engaging in illegal activities of their own. Some of our Georgia readers may have already heard about the two federal agents who were charged recently with serious federal charges including wire fraud and money laundering. The charges are in connection with the agents' activities while investigating the Silk Road, a website notorious for "drug dealing and other illicit sales." The criminal complaint that was opened last month claims that while investigating, the two agents partook in illegal activities of their own.

Although the charges against the two agents have not been proven in a court of law, they could result in convictions with serious consequences. As you may know, or would suspect, the federal government takes money laundering and wire fraud offenses seriously. Convictions for these crimes generally lead to fines and lengthy sentences in prison.

Normally these case do not involve federal agents, but usually involve business people who may or may not realize their actions are being investigated. If a case like this were occurring here in Georgia, defendants would be encouraged to seek legal counsel by obtaining a skilled criminal defense lawyer as soon as they suspect an investigation is being conducted. It is almost always better to consult with a lawyer before ever talking with an investigative agent, so getting counsel as early as possible is best. There is a lot at stake if you are convicted of a federal crime like money laundering or wire fraud, or other federal crimes. Attorney advice can help you present your side of the story favorably, and often keep you from saying something that hurts your position or keeps you from benefitting from possible cooperation. Counsel can help you present the entirety of the story, not just the side prosecutors want the court to hear. At times this can avoid, or at least minimize, the consequences of a federal investigation or charges.

Sources: New York Times, "Inquiry of Silk Road Website Spurred Agents' Own Illegal Acts, Officials Say," Benjamin Weiser and Matt Apuzzo, March 30, 2015

CNET Magazine, "Pirate Bay back up after December police raid," Roger Cheng, Jan. 31, 2015

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Nick Lotito & Seth Kirschenbaum

Former Federal Prosecutors

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