Back in 2013, U.S. DEA and Secret Service departments shutdown a notorious illegal drug marketplace known as The Silk Road. The owner/operator, and main focus of the subsequent investigation, Ross Ulbricht, also referred to as Dead Pirate Roberts or “DPR”, received multiple charges and will spend his life in prison.
While it was considered a great win against the illegal drug trade operating via the Darknet, there is something more concerning: the seizing of the cryptocurrency used for purchases on The Silk Road called bitcoins. The U.S. initiated civil proceedings against the marketplace and it’s owner, DPR, in order to obtain the bitcoins stored on Silk Road servers.
Ulbricht was not about to give up all of the funds though and decided to fight the civil suit as much as he could. Ulbricht claimed the bitcoins were originally seized illegally by the DEA and Secret Service departments citing two agents and their part in obstructing justice, money laundering and extortion of the cryptocurrency for personal gain. These corrupt agents were formally charged as well.
Later in 2014, Ulbricht, chose to drop his claims and allow the United States government to cash out the profits from the bitcoin auctions. This is where the U.S. didn’t really think it through too well as the bitcoin and it’s value constantly changes in an erratic manner. $48 million sounds like a lot but that was when the bitcoin’s value was at one of it’s lowest.
Had the United States waited until the value rose back up, such as it’s current very high value, they could have stood to cash in those 114k plus bitcoins for a whopping $630m instead. In the end, what is done is done and the Silk Road was shutdown for the greater good and safety of us all . . . right? Only time will tell.