Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Forfeiture Of $28 Million Worth Of Bitcoins Belonging To Silk Road
Largest Ever Forfeiture of Bitcoins; Court Also Orders Forfeiture of the Silk Road Hidden Website
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, today announced the forfeiture of approximately 29,655 Bitcoins (which, at today’s Bitcoin exchange rate, are worth approximately $28 million) that were seized from the Silk Road server, as well as the forfeiture of the Silk Road hidden website. The Silk Road hidden website and the Bitcoins that were forfeited yesterday had been seized in connection with the civil forfeiture action previously filed in Manhattan federal court on September 30, 2013, seeking the forfeiture of all assets of Silk Road, including its website and all of its Bitcoins because those assets allegedly were used to facilitate money laundering and constitute property involved in money laundering. In addition to the civil action, a criminal Complaint against Ross William Ulbricht, a/k/a “Dread Pirate Roberts,” a/k/a “DPR,” a/k/a “Silk Road,” the alleged owner and operator of the Silk Road hidden website, was filed in September 2013 in Manhattan federal court charging him with one count of narcotics conspiracy, one of count of conspiracy to commit computer hacking, and one count of money laundering conspiracy. The forfeiture order was signed yesterday by United States District Judge J. Paul Oetken.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “With today’s forfeiture of $28 million worth of Bitcoins from the Silk Road website, a global cyber business designed to broker criminal transactions, we continue our efforts to take the profit out of crime and signal to those who would turn to the dark web for illicit activity that they have chosen the wrong path. These Bitcoins were forfeited not because they are Bitcoins, but because they were, as the court found, the proceeds of crimes.”
The Silk Road hidden website was designed to enable its users to buy and sell illegal drugs and other unlawful goods and services anonymously and beyond the reach of law enforcement. In connection with the civil forfeiture action, and in addition to the Bitcoins that were forfeited yesterday, the Government seized an additional 144,336 Bitcoins (which, at today’s Bitcoin exchange rate, are worth over $130 million) that were found on computer hardware belonging to Ulbricht. Ulbricht has filed a claim in the civil forfeiture action, asserting that he is the owner of the Bitcoins found on his computer hardware, and contesting the forfeiture of those Bitcoins.
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The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Serrin Turner is in charge of the prosecution, and Assistant United States Attorney Christine Magdo is in charge of the forfeiture aspects of the case.
The charges contained in the criminal Complaint against Ulbricht are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.