Justice Dept. seizes $1B in Bitcoin stolen from Silk Road founder


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Bitcoin theft from Silk Road now valued at $1B–left untouched for eight years

While most Americans were riveted to election returns Tuesday night, the U.S. Justice Dept. created a riveting story of its own. The Justice Dept. seized 69,000 Bitcoins in addition to other cryptocurrencies—all of which are currently valued at over a $1 billion.

In 2012, a hacker stole the Bitcoins from the  owner of the online drug market Silk Road. Arrested in 2013, Ross Ulbricht, the Silk Road founder and original owner of the coins, is currently serving a life sentence. Charges include conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy to sell drugs, computer hacking, and more.

At the time of Ulbricht’s arrest in 2013, the market valued each Bitcoin at around $130. Currently, Bitcoins command a price of around $15,000. The hacker who stole the Bitcoin cashed in only a few, and s/he left the rest alone. That restraint—in the face of the skyrocketing value—had amazed observers who long followed the theft and the fate of Ulbricht.

With advances in cybercrime detection methods, investigators from the IRS recently identified transactions that had gone unnoticed in prior investigations. This led authorities to the stash of stolen Bitcoin. The Justice Dept. has not yet disclosed further details of its investigation or its success in seizing the Bitcoin.

The U.S. government will likely auction off the seized Bitcoin—but in chunks due to the tremendous value and the absence of bidders with that kind of cash.

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