Stolen cryptocurrencies seldom make their way back into compromised wallets, but the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has beaten the odds. On Monday, November 7, the Department of Justice revealed that it has seized about $3.36 billion in stolen Bitcoin related to the Bitfinex incident in 2016.
In November 2021, a raid was carried out on James Zhong’s home in Gainesville, Georgia, and the stolen monies were recovered. Authorities in the United States seized around 50,676 Bitcoins, which were then worth more than $3.36 billion. This is the second-largest money seizure to occur in recent history. Zhong had hidden the stolen monies in a popcorn tin-sized underground safe.
Zhong also had roughly 3,500 extra bitcoins after swapping 50,000 bitcoin cash (BCH) he acquired after the bitcoin network hard fork in August 2017. For the conversion, he used an offshore bitcoin exchange.
Aside from the BTC seized at his home, Zhong began “willingly submitting to the government additional bitcoin” in March of this year, according to the DOJ, adding that “Zhong voluntarily submitted 1,004.14621836 extra bitcoin in total.”
Zhong admitted to the theft, which carries a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison. According to the DOJ, Zhong carried out a conspiracy to defraud the Silk Road marketplace of its money and property in September 2012, and he was able to withdraw several times more bitcoin than he had invested in the first place.
The US government also seized $1 billion in Bitcoin linked to an unlawful website in November 2020. According to a recent Chainalysis analysis, $1.6 billion in cryptocurrency has been stolen up until August 2022, and we have seen multiple monies taken from crypto bridges and Defi (Decentralized Finance) projects in the last few months.
Hacking in Past years
Also, Binance after hacking in past, has frozen withdrawals as it works to recover the funds and claims to be close to identifying the culprit. For the past few years, hacks like this have been driving investors away from crypto, which is one of the reasons the crypto market has fallen from its highs in November 2021.
US investigators say Zhong stole Bitcoin from the criminal Silk Road marketplace, a Dark Web network known for drug trafficking and illegal gun sales. The FBI shut down Silk Road in 2013. Ross Ulbricht, Silk Road’s founder, is serving a life sentence.
The US submitted an amended preliminary forfeiture order in the US v. Ross Ulbricht case on Monday, seeking to forfeit approximately 51,351.89785803 bitcoin linked to Silk Road, valued at roughly $3,388,817,011.90 at the time of seizure.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe entered a Consent Preliminary Order of Forfeiture for 154.4268793000044 BTC, $661,900 in cash, 25 Casascius coins (physical bitcoin) valued at approximately 174 BTC, other metals, and Zhong’s 80% stake in Memphis-based RE&D Investments LLC.
According to the Justice Department, the seized metals included four one-ounce silver-colored bars, three one-ounce gold-colored bars, four 10-ounce silver-colored bars, and one gold-colored coin.
Following the DOJ’s publication, social media users noticed that one of Zhong’s BTC addresses matched one given by Bitcointalk member “Loaded.”. “In March 2017, Bitcointalk user ‘Loaded’ signed a post from an address with 40,000 bitcoin, wanting to perform a 1 to 1 swap for ‘Bitcoin Unlimited’ with Roger Ver,” Bitmex Research said in a tweet. However, US officials have seized these funds.
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