U.S. Attorney Damian Williams and Special Agent Tyler Hatcher have announced the seizure of $3.36B worth of Bitcoin (BTC) in connection with Silk Road.
Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Special Agent in charge at IRS Criminal Investigation have collectively disclosed information relating to the confiscation of over 50,000 BTC in connection with the dark web marketplace Silk Road in 2012.
“In November 2021, Law Enforcement Seized Over 50,676 Bitcoin Hidden in Devices in Defendant JAMES ZHONG’s Home; ZHONG Has Now Pled Guilty to Unlawfully Obtaining that Bitcoin From the Silk Road Dark Web in 2012.” Department of Justice press release writes.
James Zhong, who was, in November of 2021, charged for unlawfully obtaining 50,676 BTC worth $3.36B then, recently pleaded guilty to the charges brought on him. Attorney Damian revealed the development Monday through a statement.
According to the statement, Zhong had obtained 50K+ Bitcoin through a wire fraud in September of 2012 on the dark web marketplace Silk Road. Nine years later, American authorities raided Zhong’s residence in Gainsville, Georgia, amidst an investigation, leading to confiscating of BTC tokens. Zhong pleaded guilty to the charges last week Friday.
Besides the BTC confiscated, the authorities also seized $661K from Zhong’s house and several precious metals assets. The statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office noted that the seizure then represented the largest cryptocurrency confiscation in the history of the U.S. and is currently the second largest, just behind the DoJ’s arrest of two individuals for a conspiracy to launder up to $4.6B worth of crypto in February.
“Thanks to state-of-the-art cryptocurrency tracing and good old-fashioned police work, law enforcement located and recovered this impressive cache of crime proceeds. This case shows that we won’t stop following the money, no matter how expertly hidden, even to a circuit board in the bottom of a popcorn tin,” Attorney Williams remarked, speaking on the development.
Following Zhong’s recent plea, U.S. Judge Paul Gardephe entered an order of forfeiture which involved Zhong’s 80% interest in a Memphis-based firm RE&D Investments, LLC; the 50K+ BTC and all the precious metals confiscated from Zhong’s home, including gold and silver.
Speaking on the matter, Special Agent Hatcher highlighted the sophistication behind Zhong’s criminal scheme, which involved defrauding Silk Road. Hatcher also noted that his agency would continue working alongside the U.S. Attorney’s office to combat similar fraudulent acts.
U.S. authorities have been rather active in fighting crypto-related crimes, as the cryptocurrency scene witnesses a surge in criminal activities amidst a growing adoption rate. In September, the FBI and private investigators confiscated $30M stolen by North Korean hackers.
According to a CNBC report, cryptocurrencies accounted for over 90% of the assets confiscated by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service last year. The report also noted that these crypto assets are usually liquidated following a court warrant, with the proceeds going to any victims of the crime or distributed amongst government agencies.