The Justice Department seized cryptocurrency once valued at $3.36 billion from a Georgia man who pleaded guilty to stealing bitcoin from the Silk Road online marketplace. The seizure, which occurred in November 2021 and hadn’t been publicly announced, is the second largest in DOJ history. The government is seeking the forfeiture of the seized bitcoin, which has declined significantly in value and is now worth about $1 billion, the Wall Street Journal reports. The department earlier seized $3.6 billion in digital currency stolen during the 2016 hack of the Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange. James Zhong, 32, of Georgia pleaded guilty on Friday to one count of wire fraud for stealing more than 50,000 bitcoin in 2012 from Silk Road, the now-defunct online dark web marketplace that sold illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services. “For almost 10 years, the whereabouts of this massive chunk of missing bitcoin had ballooned into an over $3.3 billion mystery,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in Manhattan. “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.” Prosecutors said that in 2012, Zhong created fraudulent Silk Road accounts and triggered more than 140 transactions to trick the marketplace’s system into releasing cryptocurrency into his account. Law enforcement found most of the bitcoin in an underground floor safe and on a computer.
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