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US DOJ Seizes A Record $3.36 Billion From Decade-Old Bitcoin Heist

The US Attorney’s Office of The Southern District of New York confirmed in an official DOJ press release on November 7, that the office had seized $3.36 Billion valued in stolen Bitcoin assets related to the Silk Road marketplace. The department also released news of a conviction also related to the seizure. Silk Road is the infamous digital shopping platform which was shut down for illicit criminal activity in 2013 by the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

Before being shut down, Silk Road suffered a breach in which over 50,000 Bitcoin was stolen. The BTC was missing until the DOJ caught up with the culprit a decade later, ultimately resulting in the largest digital assets seizure in the history of the department, and the second-largest confirmed financial seizure on record, since the DOJ’s inception in 1908. The seizure allegedly took place when authorities executed a judicially-expedited search warrant of the home and premises of James Zhong a year prior on November 9, 2021, in connection with the Silk Road BTC theft.

Details Of The $3.36 Billion Dollar Bitcoin Seizure

On November 9, 2021, records reveal that law enforcement executed a legal search of James Zhong’s Gainesville, GA home. During the search, it is documented that authorities found and seized around 50,676.17851897 Bitcoins. At that time, the value of the BTC in USD equivalent totalled $3.36 billion dollars, the most ever in a cryptocurrency seizure, and still the second greatest valued financial seizure of all time according to the notes in the official press release on Monday.

In addition to Bitcoin retrieved in the search and seizure, the Department of Justice is also seeking the forfeiture of other assets which belonged to Zhong. The specific assets that the DOJ is seeking forfeiture of include an 80% interest in RE & D Investments, LLC, a company based in Memphis which is said to have significant real estate holdings, $661,900 in cash seized from the home of James Zhong and various metals said to be obtained in the seizure. The reason behind the seizure is the connection that the stolen assets have to the formerly-operating Silk Road online Bitcoin marketplace.

A Decade-Old Crime Followed Through The Blockchain

The Silk Road operation was a large marketplace used to sell illicit drugs, products and services from 2011 through 2013. The founder, Ross Ulbricht, was arrested and prosecuted as part of the investigation which brought an end to the illegal digital marketplace. Ulbricht was found guilty by a jury in a unanimous decision and sentenced to life in prison in 2015.

It was alleged that James Zhong executed what was described by authorities to be an elaborate plan to steal funds from the Silk Road marketplace. In the report, it is documented that Zhong was able to hide traces of the stolen funds through an intricately designed scheme which went through many points of the dark web. On November 4, 2022, James Zhong pled guilty to wire fraud before United States District Judge Paul G. Gardephe, after all evidence and charges were presented.

A Long-Term Commitment To Addressing Cyber Crime

The US DOJ took the opportunity to give kudos to special agents who they referenced as being the best in the world at tracking digital payments and currency through the online world to all points, including traditional finance destinations and routes. The department expressed that this conviction would serve as one that exemplifies the commitment of the department to track down cyber crimes for as long as needed in order to secure justice.

For the span of a decade, James Zhong was able to elude being located and identified, only to be met with the US law enforcement agency eventually catching up with him. This has been a year of record-breaking hacks and crime in the cyber world, and this blockchain and BTC crypto news could serve as a warning to individuals who have increasingly sought to pillage and plunder throughout the blockchain and crypto environments.


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