Feeds

Ross Ulbricht: 'Oi! Give me back my $34m in Silk Road Bitcoin booty'

Claims asset seizure was illegal

High performance access to file storage

After his arrest in October, 29-year-old Ross Ulbricht maintains that he is not the Dread Pirate Roberts, mastermind of the online drugs marketplace Silk Road. But he also says the Bitcoins the authorities seized from Silk Road belong to him, and the government should give them back.

Since shutting down the secretive online shop, the FBI claims to have confiscated electronic wallets containing more than 173,000 Bitcoins from Silk Road – an amount worth about $33.6m in real-world currency.

The authorities claim these funds are the proceeds of a criminal conspiracy involving drugs trafficking and money laundering. Ulbricht, on the other hand, says that's got nothing to do with him – yet the New York Post reports that he has also filed papers with a federal court in New York City demanding that the seized Bitcoins be returned to him.

In a notarized statement dated December 11, Ulbricht reportedly says he "has an interest as owner" in the seized funds and argues that as a virtual currency, Bitcoins are "not subject to seizure" under federal forfeiture laws.

It's a neat argument. Since the Silk Road raid was the largest Bitcoin forfeiture in US history, the courts literally have never heard a case quite like it. It's possible that a judge could rule that Bitcoins don't count as the kind of property that can be seized in a criminal prosecution.

It's unlikely, though. In past cases, courts have seen fit for authorities to seize everything from cash to cars, boats, houses, artwork, and even intellectual property such as internet domain names. Just the fact that Ulbricht wants the Bitcoins back would seem to establish that they have value and are therefore fair game for forfeiture.

Still, Ulbricht could certainly use the money. Although he was represented by a public defender in his first few court appearances, he has since retained the services of New York attorney Joshua Dratel, and his case looks like it could be a long one. Among other offenses, he is charged with commissioning the contract killings of as many as six people (although there is no evidence that anyone was actually killed).

In November, Ulbricht's family, friends, and supporters chipped in $1m to secure his release from the New York jail where he now resides, but Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis ultimately denied him bail.

It remains to be seen whether those same well-wishers will be willing to put those funds towards Ulbricht's legal fees now that he has admitted to owning more than $30m worth of Bitcoin at the time of his arrest. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Singapore decides 'three strikes' laws are too intrusive
When even a prurient island nation thinks an idea is dodgy it has problems
Banks slap Olympus with £160 MEEELLION lawsuit
Scandal hit camera maker just can't shake off its past
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.