July 21st, 2015
As of Friday afternoon, the FBI had managed to seize 144,000 bitcoins from Silk Road’s founder. Worth some $28.5 million in current exchange rates, that’s the largest ever seizure of the cryptocurrency. But based on the Bitcoin trail uncovered in recent weeks, over $50 million could still be missing.
To be more specific, the Feds say they intercepted a Bitcoin wallet belonging to “Dread Pirate Roberts,” which is the pseudonym for Ross Ulbricht (or Gawker writer Adrian Chen, if you listen to Reddit’s crackpot theories). While the FBI had previously seized 30,000 from Silk Road, the now defunct drug marketplace brought down earlier this month, an FBI official told Forbes’s Andy Greenberg that the scale was unheard of. “This is unprecedented,” said the official. “Even if this were a regular drug case, it would be huge.”
Huge is only the beginning, though. According to an earlier estimate from the FBI, Ulbricht could have amassed—and stashed away—as much as 600,000 bitcoins, worth about $80 million. That’s a lot of cryptocurrency! If that is indeed the case, the latest seizure means that the FBI hasn’t even tracked down half of Ulbricht’s cyber-fortune. It also doesn’t include whatever profits Silk Road sellers managed to amass, although those bitcoins are probably trickling into the FBI’s possession as they arrest more people.
Of course, all these big numbers come from estimates of Silk Road revenue and profits. Ulbricht told Forbes last year that he was reinvesting most of the proceeds into the site, so some of that $80 million might’ve already been spent. If not, the Feds could soon break the record they just set and control up to 5 percent of all bitcoins in circulation.
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