US Justice Dept seized $3.36b in BTC from Silk Road hacker

A 32-year-old Computer Science graduate James Zhong pleaded guilty to unlawfully obtaining more than 50,000 bitcoin from the darknet marketplace Silk Road in 2012.

Gavel and handcuffs on laptop keyboard - stock photo

“This seizure was then the largest cryptocurrency seizure in the history of the U.S. Department of Justice and today remains the Department’s second largest financial seizure ever,” officials announced in a press release.

James Zhong, a resident of Georgia, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud over his hack of 50,676 BTC from Silk Road over a decade ago. A CompSci graduate, Zhong carried out a sophisticated scheme that allowed him to drain Silk Road's payments processor for $3.36billion worth of Bitcoin through a quickly executed series of withdrawals. The maximum sentence for his offense is 20 years in prison.

Authorities initially raided Zhong’s house on November 9, 2021, where they seized 50,676 Bitcoin, then valued at $3.36 billion, as well as bars of various precious metals and $661,900 in cash. However, at current prices, Zhong’s Bitcoin is now worth just $1.05 billion.

“James Zhong committed wire fraud over a decade ago when he stole approximately 50,000 Bitcoin from Silk Road. For almost ten years, the whereabouts of this massive chunk of missing Bitcoin had ballooned into an over $3.3 billion mystery,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.

“Thanks to state-of-the-art cryptocurrency tracing and good old-fashioned police work, law enforcement located and recovered this impressive cache of crime proceeds. 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,” he added.