Feds seize $28M in bitcoins

Feds seize $28M in bitcoins

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(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The United States Attorney in New York says about $28 million worth of bitcoins have been seized from a man charged with operating a notorious online drug marketplace known as Silk Road.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said approximately 144,226 bitcoins were found on computer hardware belonging to Ross William Ulbricht.

Ulbricht went by the name "Dread Pirate Roberts" as he ran the Silk Road website, a hidden website designed to enable its users to buy and sell illegal drugs and other goods and services anonymously.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: "With his arrest and our subsequent seizures of millions of dollars worth of Silk Road's Bitcoins, we have sent a clear message to him and everyone else running criminal enterprises on the dark web: we are determined and equipped to hold you to account."

Federal authorities in New York have charged Ulbricht with three felonies related to the operation of the website. He was sent to New York from California earlier this month.

Federal law enforcement agents have now seized a total of approximately 173,991 bitcoins in connection with the Silk Road case, which, at today's bitcoin exchange rate, are worth over $33.6 million.

The bitcoins have been seized in connection with a civil action previously filed in Manhattan federal court on September 30, 2013, seeking the forfeiture of all assets of Silk Road, including its website and all of its bitcoins because those assets allegedly were used to facilitate money laundering and constitute property involved in money laundering.

"Ulbricht's goals were to make millions from drug use and money laundering while protecting the world's criminals from law enforcement," DEA agent in charge Brian Crowell said. "Our goal is to shut these people down and protect our children and DEA will continue to be relentless in this effort."

The Feds have called Silk Road the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet during its approximately two-and-a-half years in operation. It's estimated that the site facilitated approximately $1.2 billion in sales and approximately $80 million in commissions.

In addition to drugs, prosecutors say other illicit goods and services were also openly bought and sold on Silk Road.   They said that on September 23, 2013, there were: 159 listings under the category "Services," most of which offered computer-hacking services, such as a listing by a vendor offering to hack into social networking accounts of the customer's choosing; 801 listings under the category "Digital goods," including malicious software, hacked accounts at various online services, and pirated media content; and 169 listings under the category "Forgeries," including offers to produce fake driver's licenses, passports, Social Security cards, utility bills, credit card statements, car insurance records, and other forms of false identification documents.

The only form of payment accepted on Silk Road was Bitcoins, an anonymous, decentralized form of electronic currency, existing entirely on the Internet and not in any physical form.

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