US Seized More Than $1B in Silk Road–Linked Bitcoins, Seeks Forfeiture

The seizure on Tuesday, tied to the Silk Road marketplace, is reported to be the largest the U.S. has ever done.

AccessTimeIconNov 5, 2020 at 4:46 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 10:27 a.m. UTC
10 Years of Decentralizing the Future
May 29-31, 2024 - Austin, TexasThe biggest and most established global hub for everything crypto, blockchain and Web3.Register Now

The U.S. is suing for the forfeiture of thousands of bitcoins, totaling more than $1 billion, that it recently seized, the Department of Justice said Thursday.

  • The seizure on Tuesday, tied to early darknet market Silk Road, is the largest the U.S. has ever conducted, the DOJ said.
  • Court documents reveal the seized funds include over 69,370 bitcoin and nearly equivalent amounts of forked cryptos bitcoin cash (BCH), bitcoin gold (BTG) and bitcoin satoshi vision (BSV).
  • Prosecutors say an unnamed hacker stole the trove from Silk Road and moved them to a wallet where they sat from April 2013 until the Tuesday seizure.
  • The individual consented to the government seizure on Tuesday.
  • The news comes days after blockchain intelligence firm Elliptic reported that a wallet possibly belonging to the Silk Road marketplace moved almost $1 billion worth of bitcoin earlier this week.
  • This was the first transaction from the address since 2015, when it transferred 101 BTC to BTC-e – a now-shuttered cryptocurrency exchange allegedly favored by money launderers, Elliptic said. BTC-e operator Alexander Vinnik has been in custody in Europe since 2017.
  • Earlier this week, Elliptic co-founder Tom Robinson speculated the coins may have been moved by imprisoned Silk Road operator Ross Ulbricht or a Silk Road vendor.
  • Ulbricht – who operated under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts – operated the darknet website from 2011 until his arrest in 2013 and is currently serving a life sentence.

Since the coins have sat dormant in the wallet for years, unavailable for trading, their confiscation appears unlikely to have played any role in the recent run-up in bitcoin's price. On the contrary, if the government were to auction them as it typically does, the coins could rejoin the circulating supply.

This is a developing story; refresh for updates.

Read the court filings below:

Disclosure

Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, institutional digital assets exchange. Bullish group is majority owned by Block.one; both groups have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary, and an editorial committee, chaired by a former editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, is being formed to support journalistic integrity.


Learn more about Consensus 2024, CoinDesk's longest-running and most influential event that brings together all sides of crypto, blockchain and Web3. Head to consensus.coindesk.com to register and buy your pass now.