A real estate developer said he stole more than 50,000 bitcoins from the Silk Road marketplace on the dark web about 10 years ago.
In a statement released on Monday, the Southern District of New York said that James Zhong, the alleged thief, gave back $3.4 billion worth of cryptocurrency to the Justice Department last year.
Court records show that Zhong, who is 32 years old, admitted to wire fraud in September 2012 after getting the digital currency without permission.
At the time, one bitcoin was worth about $13.50.
During a raid in November of last year, federal agents found the bitcoin on devices hidden in a safe under the floor of Zhong’s home in Gainesville, Georgia. Each bitcoin was worth $68,000 at the time. People say that the digital money was stored on a single-board computer that was hidden in a popcorn tin and tucked under blankets in a bathroom closet.
After the $3.6 billion that the government got back from a couple who hacked the virtual currency exchange Bitfinex in 2016, this is said to be the second largest amount of cryptocurrency that the government has seized.
Damian Williams, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said that “state-of-the-art cryptocurrency tracing and good old-fashioned police work, law enforcement,” made the operation work.
Williams was quoted as saying, “For almost ten years, no one knew what happened to this huge amount of missing bitcoin, which was worth more than $3.3 billion.”
People say that Zhong used nine anonymous accounts to make quick transactions on Silk Road to trick the site’s withdrawal processing system into sending bitcoin to his accounts. He now faces 20 years in prison.
Michael Bachner, Zhong’s lawyer, said that Zhong is “extremely sorry” for what he did when he was 22 years old, which is more than 10 years ago.
“Given how much bitcoin’s value has gone up in the past ten years, the bitcoin he gave back is worth a lot more than the bitcoin he took,” Bachner said.
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