Feds Rush to Cash in on Seized Bitcoin Cache Before the Bubble Bursts

Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

Feds are eager to exchange a bitcoin haul seized from the leader of an opioid drug operation because they are worried the digital booty could devalue at any moment.


The US government seized more than 513 bitcoins and 512 Bitcoin Cash from Aaron Shamo last year after arresting him for selling synthetic pharmaceuticals containing fentanyl on dark net markets. Shamo was also busted with 500,000 pills and $1 million in cash stuffed into trash bags, according to authorities. At the time of Shamo’s arrest, the cryptocurrency cache was worth about $500,000. Yesterday it was worth about $8.5 million. Today it is worth almost $10 million.

But the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah is worried that Bitcoin won’t keep going up for long, based on a recent court filing that mentions the volatility of the cryptocurrency. On Tuesday, a Utah federal judge granted the request to sell off the seized money. The loot, which is currently in a government wallet, is now set to be sold off so that the regular-old currency can go to the Treasury Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture, according to Ars Technica.

Melodie Rydalch, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Utah, told the Associated Press that while selling off seized assets like vehicles is normal in the state, selling off seized bitcoin is new for Utah federal prosecutors. Shamo pleaded not guilty to 12 charges. His attorney did not contest the bitcoin sale.

This will likely be the largest amount of money that US authorities have obtained through seized cryptocurrency. In 2014, US Marshals auctioned off almost 30,000 bitcoins, one batch of the digital bounty obtained from accounts associated with the Silk Road, eight months after the FBI arrested the founder of the dark web market, Ross Ulbricht. Today that would be worth almost $531 million.

[Associated Press/Ars Technica]

Former senior reporter at Gizmodo


Arggh! there goes a...snake a snake!

What’s the difference between “513 bitcoins and 512 Bitcoin Cash”? Can you actually get bitcoin in non-digital form?