After a decade-long wait, a massive amount of Bitcoin (BTC) stolen in the well-known Silk Road case was finally recovered by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York on 7 November. The accused in the case, James Zhong, pleaded guilty to charges on 4 November.
Law enforcement, the US Department of Justice revealed, was able to seize over 50,676 BTC in November 2021. The BTC had been hidden in devices in defendant James Zhong’s Georgia home. During the 10 years that the BTC stayed hidden, its value had grown to $3.3 billion, US Attorney Damian Williams said. The seized funds would now be worth about $1.1 billion
In addition, the Internal Revenue Service special agents that raided Zhong’s property also found 11 BTC, $661,900 in cash, and 25 Casascius coins worth roughly 174 BTC.
According to US Attorney Damian Williams, “good old-fashioned police work” and “state-of-the-art cryptocurrency tracing” could be credited for the stolen BTC being recovered.
The recovery of the stolen BTC heralds another success as far as tracking crypto crimes goes. In recent times, the crypto industry has been struck by a slew of hacks and exploits, but recoveries have been making news too. Recently, $30 million worth of crypto lost in the Ronin hack was recovered. The hack-hit Mango DAO and Transit Swap too saw significant recoveries.
About Silk Road
Launched in 2011, Silk Road is widely regarded as the first darknet market. It allowed users to buy and sell illicit goods, such as weapons and stolen credit card information.
The FBI eventially shut down the marketplace, citing illegal activities. Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht was arrested for his role in 2013. He is currently serving two life sentences without the possibility of parole.
How the crime was carried out
The current case’s defendant, James Zhong, was one of the users on the platform. In 2012, he found a way around the marketplace’s withdrawal-processing system. He began to acquire BTC illegally by creating multiple accounts on Silk Road and triggering a series of transactions. It took more than 140 transactions to acquire the massive amount of BTC.
Zhong then moved the funds out of Silk Road. Finally, he consolidated the sum into two high-value amounts.
Zhong could face up to 20 years in prison for the wire fraud.