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Opioid Merchant’s Seized Bitcoin now Worth over $8.5 Million; Prosecutors Scramble to Sell

Reading Time: 2 minutes by on December 16, 2017 Bitcoin, News, Regulation

After the dramatic rise in BTC-USD, a stash of bitcoin seized from an opioid dealer on the dark net has climbed from a value of $500,000 to $8.5 million, with US prosecutors looking to sell the confiscated cryptocurrency to net a nice profit for the state.

The dark net is the underworld of the World Wide Web. Content and websites on the dark net can only be accessed using a hidden service browser, like Tor. The level of encryption and anonymity offered consequently makes it a haven for criminals, including opioid dealers and sellers of all kinds of restricted goods.

Gone To The Moon

Bitcoin, the world’s most valuable cryptocurrency, has seen an exponential rise in its market price since the beginning of 2017 when it hit $2000 for the first time. Bitcoin was released in 2009 by an anonymous cryptographer, and offers its users a fast, pseudonymous and cheap form of sending and receiving money from all over the world, using blockchain technology.

Just like in real life, a good thing also has its bad side. The high value of bitcoin and ease of use as a payment method has attracted bad actors who use the cryptocurrency for the purposes of money laundering, among other things.

According to CNBC, a United States citizen named Aaron Shamo was arrested in November 2016 in connection with the illegal sales of drugs containing fentanyl on the dark net. On November 3, 2016, the price of bitcoin on Bitstamp was only $727 and about $500,000 worth of the cryptocurrency was seized from the accused drug dealer. Fast forward to late 2017, at the time of writing, the bitcoin price has hit the $18,000 region, taking the value of Shamo’s confiscated bitcoin value to over $8.5 million.

Bitcoin For Sale

The Utah-based U.S officials prosecuting Shamo’s case are planning to sell the $8.5 million or so worth of bitcoin seized from the accused opioid dealer. A spokeswoman for the Utah attorney’s office, Melodie Rydalch declared that:

“For federal prosecutors in Utah, sales of seized assets like cars are routine, but bitcoin is new territory. The proceeds of the bitcoin sale will be held until the case is resolved, and then decisions will be made about where the money goes.”

In the U.S, it is the norm for the proceeds from seized assets to go to the agency that championed the investigation, in this case, The Drug Enforcement Administration.

Shamo’s case is ranked among the most significant drug busts in the United States. It is important to note that a lump sum of $1 million was also recovered from the accused, which he tried to hide by stuffing the dollar bills into trash bags.

Aaron Shamo has pleaded not guilty to charges which include money laundering, possession of fentanyl amongst other charges.

Billionaire Tim Draper picked up around 30,000 bitcoin in an auction held by the U.S. Marshal Service. The confiscated cryptocurrency in this case was seized from the infamous Silk Road marketplace.

With the continuous surge in the price of bitcoin, and cryptocurrencies in general, criminals and bad actors will always be looking for ways to use these assets in aiding their illegal operations, while the government will always be looking to line their pockets. So it may be too brash to assume cryptocurrencies will allow criminals to hide completely. The incentive to catch criminals (and seize their cryptographic money) is strong due to the fact that these forms of money are appreciating at a rapid rate.

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