Where is the loot from a crime? This question often occupies the investigating authorities just as intensively as the search for the perpetrators. In the USA, investigators found what they were looking for in a particularly bizarre hiding place. And came across billions of euros in Bitcoin at an unexpected place.
The Justice Department announced this in a press release yesterday. Accordingly, after years of work, special investigators from the tax authority IRS managed to track down a clever bitcoin thief. When they searched the house of 32-year-old James Z., they actually found what they were looking for: In addition to cash and "various metal bars - presumably gold and silver - he had also hoarded Bitcoin spread over several data carriers at home. And not too little: Over 50,000 The investigators were able to confiscate digital coins totaling a whopping $3.39 billion at the time of the search.
The accused had been quite creative in his hiding places. In addition to bundles of money and precious metals, a classic hidden floor safe also contained 25 so-called Casascius coins, a type of physical crypto coin worth tens of thousands of euros. But the real treasure was hidden in a much more subtle way. In a bathroom cabinet, investigators found a tin can that used to contain popcorn. They finally discovered a wrapped USB stick under the towels stored inside – and over 50,000 Bitcoin on it.
They come from a robbery that Z. has already confessed to. The goal: Ironically, the largest drug platform of the time, the infamous Darknet site Silk Road. Investigators found out that thief Z. managed to trick the site's payment system in September 2012. To do this, he paid Bitcoin into his specially set up account at the drug hub. And picked it up right away. But not just once. Using a program, he had the same amount withdrawn several dozen times within a second. Because the site was overwhelmed, it paid him out individually for each of the requests. He is said to have made 50 withdrawals from one account before the site blocked him.
At the time of the theft, Z. had made a small fortune. Bitcoin had just broken the $10 per coin mark, then surged to $12. Z. was suddenly between 500,000 and 600,000 dollars richer. But the real boom was yet to come. The course continued to climb upwards. When police searched his home last November, he had just passed his all-time high. Each of the coins stolen was worth nearly $60,000.
The US authorities are not interested in the fact that Z. did not steal from law-abiding citizens, but from the long-convicted operator of the Silk Road. The charge is "wire fraud". According to the Justice Department, the maximum penalty is 20 years in prison. However, because Z. confessed and voluntarily handed over around 1,000 more captured Bitcoins, he should receive a lesser fine.
For the authorities, the case is a gigantic success. For almost ten years, it had been a virtual mystery who had been robbing the dark web marketplace. Z. had succeeded in cleverly using the anonymity of the Darknet and the cryptocurrency for concealment. The fact that the tax authorities have now found out about him should be a warning signal to other online criminals.
Source: US Department of Justice